I read several reviews over the past few months about the young adult book, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs. The reviews all said that the book was strange but compelling. I definitely have to agree. It is one of the strangest books for young people that I have ever read.
It is definitely a beautiful book. There pages are embellished with designs by the page numbers and there are numerous photos of the characters in the book. The writing is clear and crisp and descriptive. I have discovered another page-turner.
The story centers around sixteen-year-old Jacob Portman. He is intelligent but clumsy, and doesn’t make friends easily. He never seems to fit in anywhere.
Jake is very close to his grandfather, Abe Portman, who is an unusual fellow himself. Abe’s Jewish family was killed when he was a child and he was sent to an orphanage on Cairnholm Island in Wales. He served in the military and accumulated quite a collection of weapons that are locked in a trunk at home. He tells fantastic stories about his life at the orphanage and the “peculiar” children who lived there, monsters who were and are after him. He shows Jacob strange photos of children who float above the ground, lift huge boulders and just look weird. When Jacob is small, he believes these stories and is fascinated by them. As he grows older, he realizes that it’s all make-believe.
One day, Jacob finds Abe in the backyard with terrible wounds and covered in blood. His dying words are, “find the bird, in the loop.” Understandably, Jacob freaks out. He later discovers a letter to Abe from a Miss Peregrine, the headmistress of the orphanage. His curiosity is piqued.
After a few months, Jacob and his father travel to Cairnholm Island for Jacob to see the orphanage for himself and try to get a little closure on the terrible episode in his life. His father looks for unusual birds for his bird book.
The orphanage is in ruins, bombed in the attack of September 3, 1940. Jacob explores the decrepit house and finds his way into a cairn or cave. To his shock and horror, he has traveled back in time “through a loop” to that very day. And, that day repeats over and over and over, thus, the loop.
The orphanage is beautiful and the peculiar children are everywhere. Among others, there is Claire who has an extra mouth under her hair on the back of her head; super strong Bronwyn; Emma Bloom, his grandfather’s childhood girlfriend who can produce fire; the invisible Millard. The children hide from wights – and hollows – the monsters Abe always told him about.
Jacob discovers that he is peculiar, as well. He can actually SEE the monsters, where the others can’t. He and the other peculiars try to save Miss Peregrine, “the bird,” from death.
The story has a surprising ending – at least to me, but I liked it.