Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is the debut novel by American author Ransom Riggs. The book tells the tale of a boy who, following a horrific family tragedy, follows clues that take him to an abandoned orphanage 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 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 29 April 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 characterization and settings.
After his grandfather’s murder, apparently by a make-believe creature, 16-year-old Jacob Portman goes to Wales to learn more about his grandfather’s life. He finds that his grandfather lived in a derelict orphanage for “peculiar children”. That is where he meets Emma, a “strikingly pretty” girl who can control fire. She uses time travel to take him back to 1940 to meet Miss Peregrine, the orphanage director, who lives with the other children in a “time loop”. Jacob enjoys spending time with the other peculiar children such as Millard, who is invisible, and Bronwyn, who has incredible strength. In the pub where Jacob is staying, he hears stories of mysterious deaths in the region, and he warns the peculiar children. They tell Jacob that the deaths were caused by the “hollows” or “hollowgasts,” the same monsters that killed his grandfather. Jacob later learns that he too is peculiar, and realizes only he can see the monsters and stop the killings.
After Jacob (with Emma’s help) kills one of the hollows, Miss Peregrine is kidnapped. The children rescue Miss Peregrine, but she is in bird form and cannot change back to human form. Ultimately the peculiar children must find another time loop when theirs fails to reset. A loop must be reset every day by its owner – in this case, Miss Peregrine – and she is trapped as a bird, causing the loop to disappear and forcing the children to find a new home.