Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
|Genre||Young adult literature, dark fantasy|
Published in English
|June 7, 2011|
|Media type||Print, e-book, audiobook|
|Followed by||Hollow City|
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a dark fantasy debut novel by American author Ransom Riggs. It is a story of a boy who, following a horrific family tragedy, follows clues that take him to an abandoned children's home on a Welsh island. The story is told through a combination of narrative and vernacular photographs from the personal archives of collectors listed by the author.
This young adult book was originally intended to be a picture book featuring photographs Riggs had collected, but on the advice of an editor at Quirk Books, he used the photographs as a guide from which to put together a narrative. Riggs was a collector of photographs, but needed more for his novel. He met Leonard Lightfoot, a well-known collector at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, and was introduced to other collectors. The result was a story about a boy who follows clues from his grandfather's old photographs which lead him on an adventure that takes him to a large abandoned orphanage on Cairnholm, a Welsh island.
The book has been a New York Times best seller. It reached the #1 spot on the Children's Chapter Books list on April 29, 2012, after being on the list for 45 weeks, remaining there until 20 May, when it dropped to the fourth spot on the list. Critics have generally praised the book for creative use of vintage photographs as well as good characterisation and settings.
As a child, Jacob Portman listened to his grandfather Abraham's stories about living with peculiar children in a special children's home run by Miss Peregrine, their mentor. As Jacob grows older, he doubts the stories until he visits his injured and dying grandfather and witnesses a strange, humanoid creature only he can see. Abraham tells Jacob to "... find the bird in the loop on the other side of the old man's grave on September 1940, and tell them what happened." No one believes Jacob's account of an invisible monster, and he is believed to be going crazy. His parents take him to Dr. Golan, a psychiatrist, who suggests that Jacob go to Wales, the location of his grandfather's children's home. Jacob finds the home deserted, so he seeks information from the local people, including workers at the Cairnholm Museum.
During another search of the children's home, Jacob encounters a mysterious girl whom he follows and questions. They reach the bogs before Jacob realizes that the inn and people are quite different. The drunken patrons are suspicious and chase Jacob. The girl, Emma Bloom, and an invisible boy named Millard Nullings rescue Jacob and escape with him to Miss Peregrine's children's home. There Jacob is introduced to other peculiar children. Bronwyn Bruntley has amazing strength and Claire Densmore has a mouth at the back of her head. Emma and Millard tell Jacob they exist in a time loop, reliving the same day forever due to Miss Peregrine, who is an Ymbryne. Ymbrynes can create time loops. She explains that hollowgasts — humanoid, tentacle-mouthed creatures like the one that killed Jacob's grandfather — are a threat to all Ymbryne-run orphanages. She also explains that the hollowgasts are the result of a failed immortality experiment in the Siberian tundra, which was marked by a cataclysmic explosion. Miss Peregrine tells Jacob, that he, like his grandfather, has the ability to see the hollowgasts.
Jacob notices that the peculiar children use their powers to entertain crowds. He meets Enoch O'Connor, who uses hearts from other creatures to temporarily restore life. Enoch introduces Jacob to Victor, who lies dead in his bed, killed by a hollowgast before the start of the series. The wights, who have evolved from hollowgasts, hunger for power from the peculiars. Jacob, Emma, Bronwyn, Enoch, and Millard go into an ice house where a deceased man, Martin, lies inside a lidless ice coffin. Enoch uses a sheep heart to briefly bring Martin back to life. Martin tells them that a wight killed him. A wight then appears behind them and reveals that he is Dr. Golan. Jacob decides to stay in the time loop so that he and his companions can escape from Dr. Golan. They are pursued by Malthus, the hollow that killed Jacob's grandfather. After leading the hollow away from Emma and the other peculiar children, Jacob manages to kill it with a pair of garden shears. They then make their way back to the orphanage, but discover that Dr. Golan has kidnapped Miss Peregrine.
Dr. Golan warns them not to attempt to rescue Miss Peregrine. Still, Jacob and his friends believe he is bluffing and follow him. When they find Dr. Golan near a lighthouse, he shoots Millard but only wounds him. They see Miss Peregrine and Miss Avocet, another Ymbryne, in their bird forms and trapped in a cage. Jacob and Emma follow Dr. Golan. When they corner him, he throws the cage into the sea. Jacob shoots him, and Golan falls into the darkness. Jacob and Emma follow the bird cage underwater and see a U-boat. They recover the cage and bring Miss Peregrine back to shore, but Miss Avocet is captured by the wights and taken away on the U-boat. Jacob and his companions realize that Miss Peregrine cannot change back into human form. Returning to the orphanage, they find it destroyed, leaving them having to track down the wights and discover how to help Miss Peregrine. Jacob travels back to the present to say goodbye to his father, but promises to return when his mission is finished. Jacob and his companions set sail to track down the monsters.
- Jacob Portman — A 16-year-old American teenager and the protagonist of the story. Jacob encountered the peculiar children's orphanage run by Miss Peregrine after his grandfather Abraham is killed by a monster, where he discovered his own family peculiarity legacy: the ability to see the hollowgasts. He later finds out that his ability extends to more than just seeing the hollowgast, but also to controlling them by speaking their language.
- Olive Elephanta — One of the youngest out of all the peculiar children, apart from Claire. Olive is lighter than air. In the movie, the powers of Emma and Olive are switched.
- Abraham Portman — Abraham is Jacob's grandfather. Like Jacob, he had the peculiarity of seeing hollowgasts. When Abraham was living in the loop, his sweetheart was Emma. He left the loop to fight, and thus Abraham spent his adult life traveling the world killing hollowgasts whenever he could, but kept it a secret from his regular family. He was later killed by a hollow.
- Bronwyn Bruntley — She appears as a young adolescent. Bronwyn is imbued with incredible strength like her brother Victor. She is considered another motherly figure apart from Miss Peregrine for the younger children like Olive and Claire in the books. Bronwyn is extremely loyal and kind-hearted and will do anything for her friends.
- Enoch O'Connor — He can resurrect the dead and bring life to inanimate objects for a limited time. Seems like a heartless person but is someone that actually cares.
- Horace Somnusson — He is capable of having prophetic dreams. He is a follower of fashion, and is commonly seen in suit and tie with a top hat and a monocle. He speaks with a defined English accent and is pretentious, stuck up and snooty. He is also very cowardly and is stated to be the most comedic character in the trilogy, with many funny lines and statements.
- Fiona Frauenfeld — She appears as a teenager due to residing in time loops. Fiona has an affinity for plants and can make them grow or die whenever she pleases, although the latter is rare. She has immunity to most poisons and toxins. She keeps herself in an unkempt state, in some respects like her beloved plants.
- Hugh Apiston — Appears as a teenager due to residing in time loops. Hugh has empathy with bees. He stores them in his stomach to protect them and can command them when they are released. Hugh is Fiona's love interest, as she is his. The other peculiars consider that since he controls bees and she controls plants, their mutual attraction is natural.
- Millard Nullings — He appears as a young adolescent in the time loop and has the extraordinary peculiarity of invisibility. Unfortunately, due to his peculiarity he can never be seen, and thus he wears clothes most of the time on Miss Peregrine's command. He is also extremely well-versed in all things peculiar, and documents the events of every living thing on the island during the time loop.
- Emma Bloom — She appears as a teenager, although due to residing in the time loop, she is actually over eighty years old. She was rescued by Miss Peregrine when she was ten and brought to Cairnholm Island. She can make fire and attend it with nothing more than her bare hands. During Jacob's stay, she grows close to him. In the movie, the powers of Emma and Olive are switched.
- Claire Densmore — One of the youngest out of all the peculiar children, apart from Olive, with the peculiarity of having a backmouth with extremely sharp teeth, hidden beneath her blonde curls.
- Victor Bruntley — Bronwyn's brother. Like his sister Bronwyn, Victor has incredible strength. He was killed by a hollow before the start of the series and his body was kept in a bedroom upstairs until they buried him. Before his death, he was best friends with Enoch. Due to this Enoch blames Abraham and Jacob for his death until the end of the book and film.
- The Twins — Never formally introduced by name, the twins stay side by side throughout the film. They appear covered head to toe in white fabric, notably also covering their entire faces in a white mask. Although their superpowers are not explicitly referenced, in the final fight scene, they remove their masks, and turn out to be gorgons. They do not appear as characters in the book.
An Ymbryne is a particular kind of peculiar that can change into one kind of bird and can create and maintain a time loop. They are always female and protect peculiar children, adults, and animals, often rescuing them from dire situations.
- Alma LeFay Peregrine (née Bentham) — Miss Peregrine is the headmistress of the school. She is a delicate woman who enjoys a pipe and adores her charges, although she can be strict at times. She lived in Miss Avocet's loop when she was young and she can turn into a peregrine falcon.
- Esmeralda Avocet — Miss Avocet is an elderly woman from the early to mid-Victorian period in England. Her time loop was invaded by wights and hollowgasts, forcing her to retreat to Miss Peregrine's loop. She can turn into an avocet.
- Miss Finch — Very little is known about her. She can transform herself to a finch and has an aunt who stays in finch form.
- Balenciaga Wren -- Miss Wren is the headmistress of a menagerie for peculiar animals. She can turn into a wren.
- Millicent Thrush -- Miss Thrush has a loop in London for Peculiar Children. She can turn into a thrush
- Maryann Portman — Maryann is Jacob's mother and Franklin's wife. She grew up in a rich family and still holds onto her materialistic ways. She is very protective of Jacob.
- Susan Portman — Susan is Jacob's beloved aunt. She gives him his grandfather's copy of Ralph Waldo Emerson's poems, which leads Jacob to his quest in Wales.
- Franklin Portman- Jacobs father, married to Maryann, Susan's brother, Abraham's son.
Miss Peregrine's spent 70 weeks on The New York Times Best Sellers list for children's chapter books. It reached the No. 1 spot on the list on April 29, 2012 after being on the list for 45 weeks. It remained there until 20 May, when it dropped to the fourth spot on the list. The book dropped off the list on September 9, 2012, after 63 weeks.
According to Deborah Netburn for the Los Angeles Times, the best part of the novel is "a series of black-and-white photos sprinkled throughout the book". Publishers Weekly called the book "an enjoyable, eccentric read distinguished by well-developed characters, a believable Welsh setting, and some very creepy monsters."
A sequel, titled Hollow City, was released on January 14, 2014. The novel is set immediately after the first, and sees Jacob and his friends fleeing from Miss Peregrine's to the "peculiar capital of the world", London.
A film adaptation of the book was released in the United States on September 30, 2016. It was directed by Tim Burton from a screenplay by Jane Goldman. Eva Green played Miss Peregrine in the film, along with Asa Butterfield as Jacob, and Ella Purnell as Emma Bloom.
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