The main character of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is a sixteen year old boy called Jacob Portman, who lives in America. Through all of his childhood he has been told what he thought were just made up stories by his grandfather, about a home he once lived in on a distant Welsh island. He tells of strange children who lived there, in an orphanage, all with peculiar talents, and shows him photographs, which Jacob dismisses as fakes. The children were there to be kept safe, he said, but he wouldn’t tell Jacob from what. Grandpa Portman had always been a bit strange, but Jacob relied on him, with his parents thinking they knew what was best for him when really they had no idea. When Jacob goes to his house after work, he finds his grandfather dying on the floor. All he can get out of him are a few words which he has to puzzle together to find out about his grandfather’s death. He only knows one thing- whatever the peculiar children were hiding from was what killed his grandfather. He manages to persuade his father and the psychiatrist who his parents took him to after his grandfather’s death to let him take a holiday to the island.
Strange things start going on as soon as they arrive. Emma, a girl who can control fire and hold it in her bare hands, takes him back through a time loop nearby the abandoned orphanage which he has discovered to the orphanage which his grandfather lived in. This orphanage is stuck in one day in the 1940s. It is occupied by all the children from the stories and the photos, and the kind but strict headmistress, Miss Peregrine. They are all immortal, stuck in that one day. They all think he is his grandfather, but then he tells them of what happened to his grandfather and why he is there.
He finds out what they’re hiding from and why, and pieces together evidence from all around the island. It then becomes clear to them- they are under attack. At not just from the bombs from the war- from something far, far more dangerous. Jacob realises that he is the key for keeping them alive, and he knows that he has to help. But will he choose the orphanage, with his friends, Emma, the beautiful grounds and laughing children but constant danger and no going back to his family- ever? Or will he choose his drunk father, the mother who thinks he’s mad, the psychiatrist he thought he could trust, the empty space where his grandfather was, and being unprotected forever?
In this book the author, Ransom Riggs, uses black and white photographs and his own text to create a story. The author had been collecting old photographs already but needed more for his book. The photographs haven’t been taken specifically for the book- he found them by being introduced to other photograph collectors by the man he usually went to when looking for photographs- someone named Leonard Lightfoot.
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Briggs is a haunting book which I’m never going to forget. I don’t normally like fantasy stories but this on was told so realistically that it made me uneasy. I like scary things, or things which don’t seem quite right, and as soon as I opened the book on my birthday I knew I was going to love it. I didn’t realise that it was going to give me bad dreams for months to come, but I guess that was inevitable.
To start with, there was the front cover. It was brown and looked old, and not in the Harry Potter movie way when you know that it’s either CGI or that someone’s worked on it for days. The cover design was brilliant, perfect for the book, and the title is also amazing. I loved the black, brown and white colour scheme, which makes it look like something that you just picked up in an orphanage on a remote Welsh island.
I thought that the characters were all well built up over the story. I liked how every character has at least a small bit about them, so you understand everyone’s side of the story. The story itself was disturbing, scary, original, perfectly described- the author did everything right. I can’t find a single fault with it. I love the descriptions of the island and how different it looks back in time and forward again. The description of the abandoned building sent shivers up my spine… it was completely incredible. It’s easy to describe a spooky place but not easy to do it well, but in this book it is.
I could take every single line from the book and analyse it but I would come up with the same thing in the end- this book is brilliant!!!
I am very excited that there is a sequel but slightly unsure about whether I’m going to enjoy it as much as the first or find it as believable. For example, it’s very unlikely that there’s more than one photo of the levitating girl or any of the other characters so either he would have to create a lot of new characters which would make it seem very unlikely, or not use photos which would be really sad, as they make the book what it is. I’m very interested to see how he does it. It’s also been announced that Jane Goldman is going to make the story into a screenplay for a film, which Tim Burton is going to direct. I will also see this when or if it comes out and review it and see whether or not it lives up to the book.
Estimated reading age: Eleven and up
Price on Amazon: Paperback £5.69, Kindle edition £5.41. I would advise that you get the hardback because it improves the experience. Hardback £7.79.
Author: Ransom Riggs
Main characters: Jacob, Emma, Jacob’s father, Miss Peregrine
Rating: ★★★★★ Perfect, no faults at all