The bad news is, Harry Potter is ending. The books, the movies, all finished, as of July 15th. The good news? I’ve found a new series, and it has only just begun with the first of what could possibly be many: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
I stumbled upon this creepy tale via a book trailer. It was the kind of trailer that excited me and made me want to read the book, immediately. Unfortunately, it came out the day after my birthday, so I had to wait three extra days to get my final gift in the mail from Amazon. I was not disappointed.
The cover depicts a young girl, dressed in 1940s attire and a tiara. At first glance, she’s just standing there in the woods, staring at you. At second glance you realize she’s floating a couple inches above the ground, standing in the woods, staring at you. Either way, it makes an impression. The interior is no different. The pages are thick and soft to the touch, and dispersed amidst the words are freaky photos of other children doing strange—or peculiar—things, like one child holding a huge rock over his head or another holding flames in her hand. You want to read this book; it’s too unusual to put down.
The story of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children focuses on sixteen-year-old Jacob and his grandfather, Abe. Ever since Jacob was a child, Grandpa Abe told stories about “the peculiar children” back in Abe’s old country, on an island off the coast of Wales. Abe lived with the children and their headmistress, Miss Peregrine, after fleeing his home country to escape the Nazis.
Among the peculiar children were an invisible boy, a girl who could fly, and a child covered in bees. Abe even had pictures to prove it, even though Jacob always assumed the stories—and photos—were fake. That is until Grandpa Abe dies under mysterious circumstances, which sends Jacob to his grandpa’s island in search of answers … and perhaps, something peculiar.
The pictures set the tone, but the words paint the picture. Author Ransom Riggs is a filmmaker, first and foremost. This is his first novel, although he previously wrote a nonfiction book about Sherlock Holmes. Even though this is a debut, it doesn’t feel like a debut. Riggs is comfortable with prose and the stepping-stones of good storytelling. In other words, he does a lot of showing, not telling … but he never shows you too much, because Miss Peregrine is written as a mystery. It’s also a bit science fiction, a bit horror. You have to wrap your mind around time-travel, and yes, you might not want to read this book at night—but read it you must.
I’m not ruining anything by telling you the end is not the end. I’m not sure what Riggs has planned, but there is much more to be told about the peculiar children. In this work, he created an amazing cast of characters, each with their own quirks and “super powers.” It would be a tragedy to create this world and not play with it, hopefully for several books to come.
In a world filled with to-be-continued vampire books and witch novels, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children stands out because it is original. It is extraordinary in its different-ness. That is the hook. Not only is it about peculiar children, but the book is peculiar. And in lives soon to be without the world of Hogwarts, we must seek a new kind of magic. Ransom Riggs may be the anecdote.
Learn more about him and the children at http://www.ransomriggs.com/.