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Posts Tagged ‘Ransom Riggs

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?

A. I swear to god it’s my real name. Ask my mom. I’d scan my driver’s license as proof except the photo of me is super embarrassing.

–Ransom Riggs, About Ransom Riggs

A former journalist, photographer, and documentary film editor, Ransom Riggs’ award-winning short films have screened at more than 70 film festivals worldwide. He is also a contributing writer and blogger for Mental Floss. He’s also the author of the New York Times bestseller Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a book that I’ll review tomorrow. Save the date: February 13!


Riggs grew up on a farm on the Eastern shore of Maryland and also in a little house by a beach in Florida. The bulk of info about his personal background comes from his own About Me and Frequently Asked Questions. Aside from the fact Riggs swam every day, his background resembles that of many creative types. Riggs wrote stories, took photographs, and made movies. The stories he wrote on an old typewriter that jammed and in longhand on legal pads. The photographs he took with a camera he got for Christmas. And the movies, he shot on a half-broken video camera, starring himself and friends, using local bedrooms and backyards for sets.

RansomRiggsAfter high school, Riggs attended Kenyon College in rural Ohio, where he studied literature and got a degree in English. After that, he went to film school in California, where he learned to make bigger and better movies than those of his childhood days. He graduated with a thesis film under his arm but, after spending a few years writing scripts and taking meetings, he still wasn’t getting noticed.

All the while, he was also writing for Mental Floss, both as a daily blogger but also has a contributor to their magazine and the books that they published through Harper Collins. In a shiny example of how networking helps, this led to an opportunity to some work for a small publisher. Quirk Books asked if he’d be interested in writing a book for them about Sherlock Holmes. This same company published Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, born out of his love for vintage photography and bizarre stories. Riggs has never looked back.

He now lives in Los Angeles with his wife. She apparently is a writer too, with the Shatter Me books being part of her credits. The couple type, travel, and drink tea together.


Riggs started collecting vintage photos at antique stores, flea markets, and swap meets all over southern California. Photos from his collection illustrate his best-selling 2011 young adult book Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. The bulk of info about his writing background comes from Here and Now.

After collecting old photos for a time, it occurred to Riggs that the strange-looking people in the photos he loved most might find their way into a book. He showed them to a Jason Rekulak at Quirk Books, who suggested he write a novel and weave the pictures through the story. Excited by the idea, Riggs went off to create the story of Miss Peregrine and her peculiar wards.

Riggs credits the photos with sparking ideas he never would have had otherwise. “I’m always going back to the photos and looking for inspiration as I write, so the photos will kind of change the direction of a scene. But then I’ll want to do something in a scene and I won’t have a photo to fit it, so I’ll go out and look for a photo to fit the scene. I’ll find something that’s almost right but a little different from what I’d imagined, and then I’ll change the scene I’d written to fit the photo, so there’s a lot of push and pull.” Riggs also knew that he wanted to create characters who could do fantastic things, but who weren’t exactly super heroes, rather characters who exist on “a spectrum from super-ability to disability”.

Although he felt the second book already had a momentum of its own, he still continued to collect photos. If you want to find old cool photos like those in the Peculiar books, Riggs recommends checking out the same sources as he did of vintage stores and flea markets He also notes that all kinds of wonderful things will pop up from internet searches.

Riggs himself has plans for a third book. Past that, he doesn’t know but does like the peculiar universe he has created and his cast of characters.

For fans, there’s already a movie in the works of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Tim Burton will direct it. Although Riggs has only been minimally consulted, he does think the movie will be fantastic.

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