Allison's Book Bag

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Posted on: February 13, 2015

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs has unique origins. As a past time, Riggs started collecting vintage photos at antique stores, flea markets, and swap meets. After a while, it occurred to Riggs that the strange-looking people in the photos he loved most might find their way into a book. An editor at Quirk Books agreed and the result is a bizarre novel that landed Riggs on the New York Best Selling list.

The plot of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is unusual. It involves sixteen-year-old Jacob who grew up being told fantastical tales by his grandfather. Some of those tales were of monsters. Others were of peculiar kids. All of them led back to a mysterious island. As Jacob grew older, he began to doubt the plausibility of those stories. His grandfather’s death and cryptic last words give Jacob reason to wonder. Initially, I felt this a little cliché. A good many fantasy stories, especially those shown on the screen, start with a grandfather spinning outlandish tales for his grandson. However, Riggs takes this element to a whole new level by having the grandfather seem to develop dementia. Even the death is initially ruled as an attack by wild dogs, rather than a murder by an alien creature.

Jacob’s search for the truth leads him to the coast of Wales and the mysterious island of which his grandfather has spoken. This in turn leads Jacob to the crumbling ruins of a house, where he discovers that those old tales might be true after all. Jacob also finds that he’s stumbled into more than he bargained with, including danger from friends. A long-time fan of fantasy, I appreciated the many twists that Riggs incorporated into his fantasy. At first, it seems the island is the weirdest part of Jacob’s discoveries. Then it’s the house. Then it’s the past in which Jacob finds himself. Then it’s the loop that is keeps the peculiar people safe. Every new chapter introduces a marvelous new and unexpected adventure, just the way fantasy should be.

The cast of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is extraordinary too. Naturally, foremost attention  is given to Emma, the love interest of the main character. When her parents were unable to sell her to a circus, they abandoned her. Emma has fire-setting ability that can be used both as a tool and a weapon. Then there is Enoch. He was born to a family of undertakers and is able to temporarily give life to the dead. In that he reminds me of the short-lived television series, “Pushing Daisies”. The latter show was quirky albeit sad. In contrast, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children contains a lot of darkness, as evidenced by Emma’s reluctance to discuss her past. In that way, this paranormal tale is far more complex than one might expect from a cursory glance. Thus, how much you like the story might depend on what tone and atmosphere you prefer it to have.

Just because Emma has a history doesn’t mean there aren’t children who are quirky. Another child whom Jacob meets is Hugh, who loved honey and once ate a honeycomb. In eating the honey, Hugh ate a bee that managed to continue to live in his stomach. Then he just kept on eating, until he ended up with an entire hive in him. The list of odd individuals Jacob meets is much longer and includes Miss Peregrine herself, who has the ability to change between a human and a bird. In a way, reading the Peculiar Children series is almost like visiting Oz, where one should never be surprised by whom one meets. However, the beauty of the eccentricities is almost ruined by Riggs’ need to explain the history of peculiar people. For me, it destroys some of the magic, especially when he starts explaining how some of our news reports amounts to encounters with peculiar people.

My few qualms aside, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children met my needs to intermingle fantasy reads into my long list of realistic reads. What’s even better is there at least two sequels and maybe even a movie to anticipate.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

2 Responses to "Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs"

I thought “Miss Peregrine’s…” got better and better as the story progressed. I finished the sequel about a month ago, and it was equally good (ends with quite a cliff-hanger!). I loved the blending of fantasy with a realistic setting, and the second book delves into World War II, throwing an interesting mix of history into the plot.

Thanks for your comment! I’ll add Hollow City to my list of sequels to read. 🙂

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