We’ve all heard the expression, don’t judge a book by its cover, but in this case, I couldn’t help myself. With its haunting vignette, who could? The author, Ransom Riggs, skeins a story through a stash of vintage snapshots of strange-looking children that he found at flea markets and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is the result. And, now a major motion picture. The genre isn’t my thing but I can see the book’s lure. My eight year old son was mesmerized by the pictures as he skimmed the pages for the most curious images. Scrutinizing each photo, he asked a bundle of questions including when he could read the book. I told him 7th grade. The haunting content hasn’t a place for kids under the age of 12. I have yet to preview the movie so as far as that goes…to be determined.
Fifteen year-old Jacob lives with his wealthy family in Florida. His crazy grandpa, who at one time lived in an orphanage, fought in wars, crossed oceans, performed in circuses, knew everything about guns and self-defense and surviving the wilderness, and spoke at least three languages that weren’t English, dies unexpectedly in the woods behind his house. Which leads Jacob to a mysterious island off the coast of Wales to either mourn the loss of his grandpa and/or find the orphanage his grandpa once resided. Jacob swears that he saw monsters in the woods when he found his grandpa barely alive. But the evidence shows he died of a heart attack. Is Jacob crazy too? Or is there a logical explanation? Do the photos his grandpa shared with him have anything to do with his grandpa’s death? Photos of a levitating girl, a scrawny boy lifting a boulder, the back of somebody’s head, with a face painted on it (he had two mouths). When Jacob is led through a loop (portal) to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, he discovers that the photos have everything to do with his grandfather’s death. And so does he.
The day the peculiars were supposedly killed by German bombs, September 3, 1940, repeats itself in the time capsule orphanage. Their fate carefully preserved by the reign of Miss Peregrine. Jacob learns that his “gift” of peculiarity is seeing monsters also known as hollows whose origin emerged from a faction of peculiars with dangerous ideas of becoming immortal. Their experiment with immortality went awry. Instead of becoming immortal gods, they transformed themselves into immortal devils with an insatiable hunger for the flesh of their former kin. If a hallow gorges itself on enough peculiars, it becomes a wight. Wights can pass for humans who live in servitude to their hallow brethren, acting as spies. Their immortal calling is to turn all hallows into wights and all peculiars into corpses hence the need for a secret world protected by Miss Peregrine. Finally, Jacob knows the truth. A truth that can’t escape him. He is left with a decision. Does he stay in the loop with the other guarded peculiars or does he return to Florida to his everyday “normal” life and parallel his grandpa’s fate? The problem is that a wight has been on Jacob’s tail and on the verge of discovering the loop. How can Jacob abandon his friends after possibly connecting them to their deathly destiny? Jacob stays, of course, and two more books follow to make the story a trilogy.
The next two books in the series are Hollow City and Library of Souls.