A creative children's book with excellent narrative, combined with a unique style of photography.
The book has a dark tone to it, with a slightly complex storyline that might confuse younger readers.
Peculiar American writer and film-maker Ransom Riggs is best known for his equally peculiar debut novel, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”. But make no mistake – this is not your ordinary children’s book.
The book tells the story of a troubled young boy named Jacob Portman, whose life suddenly takes a turn for the worse after the brutal murder of his grandfather, apparently by a horrendous monster with tentacles coming out of its mouth.
After several months of troubling nightmares and psychotherapy (that seems to do more harm than good), Jacob, along with his father, visits a mysterious island off the coast of Wales where, his grandfather has always claimed, there lived a group of strangely gifted children.
Determined to find out more about his grandfather’s past, Jacob explores the island and discovers an abandoned orphanage. The stories his grandfather told him turn out to be true. There, in that derelict orphanage, Jacob meets Emma, a pretty young girl who can control fire.
Emma, who believes there is more to Jacob than meets the eye, uses time travel to take him back to the year 1940 to meet the orphanage’s shape-shifting headmistress Miss Peregrine, along with other peculiar children who live in a so-called “time loop”.
The peculiar children possess one-of-a-kind abilities such as brute strength, invisibility, clairvoyance, and many other strange powers. Jacob enjoys spending time with these children and finds Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children as a means of escape from the recent family tragedy.
But all is not well in this strange new world – and back home. In the pub where Jacob and his father are staying, he overhears a conversation about mysterious deaths in the island. He then warns Miss Peregrine and the children, but soon finds out that the deaths were caused by ghastly creatures called “hollowgasts”, the same creatures who took the life of his grandfather. To make matters worse, Jacob is the only one who can see these deadly monsters. He soon learns that he too is a peculiar and realizes only he can stop the killings and protect his friends.
After killing one of the hollowgasts (with the help of Emma), Miss Peregrine is kidnapped. The peculiar children find themselves battling for survival as they rescue their headmistress, who is in her bird form and cannot change back to her original, human self.
Ultimately, Jacob and the peculiar children must find another time loop, away from bloodthirsty hollowgasts. They bid farewell to the island they once called home, leaving a wild climax that’s poised for a sequel.
Originally intended to be a picture book, Ransom Riggs expertly weaves a dark tale of odd children and the monsters pursuing them, creatively using a collection of curious and eerie vintage photographs to spin a unique and intriguing story.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is told through a combination of highly engaging narrative and old-trick photos. The curious photographs – all gathered at flea markets and from the personal archives of various collectors – have all been seemingly created in the late 19th century, featuring surreal images of people, mostly children, in bizarre costumes and situations.
Riggs successfully managed to craft eerie anticipation and buildup throughout the novel, sometimes a little too slow, but not too draggy. As with any fantasy novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children comes with a sense of thrill and mystery. It’s a spectacular novel that lives up to its “peculiarity”, allowing readers to slowly unravel the mysteries surrounding Jacob.
The novel, with its beautiful cinematic story, allows readers to easily visualize every strange conversation, every bizarre situation, and all the magical curiosities that lead up to the climax at the end of the book. Following colorful characters and a little bit of historical relevance, topped with bizarre photos, Riggs brings a story to life, a trilogy opener that’s both rich and strange.