Peculiar Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

     Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This book came came out of nowhere.  A fascinating cover: a young girl in the woods, slightly grimaced, and upon further inspection, you’ll observe she’s levitating.

The author, Ransom Riggs, grew up in small towns of Maryland and Florida.  He equates having nothing to do being the key factor that helped him create stories about other worlds.  He has a degree in film making and is currently working on his third book, which consists of photography with writing on it.

Peculiar Children tells the tale of a group of strange orphans, characters Riggs  designed from photography archives.  Riggs is quite impressive with the way he has pieced together images and plot about a fantastical world of magic children alongside history loops.

The story begins with Jacob Portman, a misfit teen with no friends, and parents who don’t understand him.  His childhood was filled with stories from his grandfather, tales about the peculiar children who lived with “the bird” at an orphanage, where Jacob’s grandfather himself was taken after the Nazi attacks.  But the monsters in this book aren’t the ones we know from our history lessons.  After Jacob’s grandfather’s death, Jacob learns all too quickly that the monsters in grandpa’s stories are real after all, and perhaps Jacob has more in common with the peculiar children than he thinks.

The wonderful thing about this book is its characters.  The black and white photos depicting the peculiar children are both entrancing and unnerving.  Everything about these mysterious lost kids invites you in, though you remain uneasy.  There is the boy with bees inside him.  The girl with the backmouth.  The child who can bring a heart to life in his hands, and place it in whom he wills.  Beginning with their photos, Jacob comes to endear these children.

Another intriguing element to the novel is its use of multiple dialects/accents.  The islanders have a different vernacular than the peculiars, and each character is given a distinct voice and persona.  Often the interactions Jacob has with them is humorous and adventurous.  I laughed several times at the bartender’s bellowing phone pick up “Piss hole!”  And there’s the childish rapping of a boy named Worm.

The story of Jacob and the people he meets along his journey is an odd one, but then what would a reader expect with a title like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children?  The only slight downfall of the tale is the fact that the ending is a bit abrupt.  I’m not sure it ended at all.  Perhaps Riggs intends to write a sequel, but as the pages become more and more scarce, it’s evident not all the problems of the peculiar children are going to be solved before the last page.  I both thoroughly enjoyed this book and am also unsure whether I’m invested enough to await a sequel that shows no signs of being written (at least from what I’ve gaged on the author’s site).

I think the idea of taking a photography collection and making it into a bizarre tale of both fantasy and mystery is awesome!  I however, also wanted more.  But don’t just take my word for it!  Albert Berg recently reviewed Riggs’ book on his Bizarro Book Review post.  Or you can always read it for yourself!  I hope you do!  It will keep you turning the page.

Have you read Peculiar Children?  Have you ever loved and been upset by a book before?  What was the book?  What do you think of Riggs’ method of using photo archives to web together a strange tale? 

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18 responses

  1. This book caught my eye immediately – how could it not, right?? Great review!

    1. It’s definitely intriguing! The characters are really interesting not just from their abilities, but when you think about the ages of them versus their physical form, it’s all the more interesting.

  2. Wow! From the picture to the first lines of your review, I was hooked. I hadn’t noticed the little girl was levitating and the book DOES sound peculiar but in an intriguing way.
    Thanks, Alica.
    Patti

    1. It’s really interesting, the children are worthwhile to learn about. I think Riggs has potential to make another book about them, but he better have a strong plot and ending in mind.

  3. JESS, I called you Alica because I just read her blog. I’m so sorry. I really DO know that your Jess!
    AACK. It’s just too early, I guess.
    Patti

    1. No worries! 🙂

  4. This book has been on my radar for a while – without doubt, it’s an original, but I have not figured out if it is quite my thing, and I shy away a bit from the disturbing aspects – reviews remind me of the movie, “Freaks.”

    Your question about disturbing books and old collections of photographs brought a very disturbing collection of old photographs to mind. I do not know if it’s still in print, but in the late 19th century, when epidemic diseases still made child mortality as high as 50% – and in the times before the Kodak put photography in everyone’s hands, many times a family’s only momento of a child was a coffin picture. “Wisconsin Death Trip” shows a number of these post-mortem photographs from rural Wisconsin in the 1890’s. If you’re interested in disturbing, that collection will do it.

    1. I’ve seen that book. It’s both interesting and macabre to view old photos taken post mortem.

      I’ve also seen Freaks and I think you should try Peculiar Children. LOL. Freaks is really weird, but the children aren’t THAT peculiar, just more magical. In other words, no giant slug people. 🙂

  5. Oh wow. This looks awesome. And a great review, too! Thanks for sharing. My wish list grows 😉

    1. I really liked this book, and I’m glad I read it for myself, but both Albert and I thought there was a little something to irritate the reader. I think it was the ending being so abrupt, but you read it and you decide!

  6. I’m just gonna’ say that the cover is incredible – the emotions it evokes. Wow.

    Another book to add to my TBR pile – will move it up a notch.

    1. The cover is one of the photos from the archive Riggs found! Her name is Olive, she’s one of my favorite peculiars!

  7. What an interesting concept for a novel! I think I read about this one somewhere else…I remember seeing the cover and becoming intrigued immediately.

    1. Yah it’s really bizarre, any time someone sets it down, you have to ask “What are you reading?!”

    2. Oooh, ok, Kate’s comment reminded me an awesome shop by you. Have you ever been to Ye Olde Shop of Curiosity in Seattle? If not you must go! They have 2 REAL mummies for sale, old quarter machines with fortune tellers (like from the movie BIG), framed taxidermied bats and lots of other fun things! You really must go! It was maybe my favorite store we found in Seattle. LOL. Just so bizarre and fun.

      1. YES!! I have been there, Jess. Awesome place…a great way to kill an hour.

  8. I enjoy vintage photos and these are both disturbing and delightful. What an interesting concept for a book. It kind of reminds me of this creepy museum my parents used to take me to as a kid where they had weird photos a like this and they had strange things like three-headed calves in jars. Yeah. Creepy. My parents were really nice church-going people, honest! LOL! Thanks for the review Jess, this is one I’ll check out.

    1. See I like museums like that. Last time I went to the Minneapolis Museum of Science they had a room devoted to strange collections. It included old instruments used to record the lumps on people’s head, which at one time is how they diagnosed people for any disorders/ailments. They had the bottled double-headed turtles and such, shrunken heads. All kinds of wonderful things like that.

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