I originally heard about this book when Tim Burton was rumored to be directing it’s feature film adaptation. Of course that caused me to immediately click the Buy button on my Kindle and begin reading. For a book with the words ‘Home for Peculiar Children’ in the title one would expect a fantastical world inhabited with imaginative creatures. In fact, the book starts out in a very normal way inhabited by very normal people. The story centers around Jacob, an angsty teenager who wishes he could leave his simple little home town and family behind for grand adventures. As a child he was close to his grandfather, Abe, who used to tell him stories and show him pictures of peculiar children. One could lift heavy objects with ease, another was invisible, and so on. These stories used to be Jacob’s favorite things in the entire world. Until, of course, he grew up and realized that they all had to be made up lies. It is only when he witnesses his grandfather’s death by a pack of vicious, mythical creatures, that Jacob begins to wonder if the stories were true.
Of course, witnessing his grandfather’s grisly demise is extremely traumatic, so his parents send him to counseling to deal with the loss. And then things get weird. Jacob’s grandfather, Abe, gave him a clue as he lay dying. Jacob thought not much of it until he realized it had to do with the stories he was told as a child. After all, if those strange creatures that had killed his grandfather actually exist, why couldn’t these kids? He becomes so obsessed that his psychologist convinces his parents he needs to visit the orphanage on a small island off the coast of Wales where his grandfather grew up in order to restore his sanity.
Soon after Jacob visits the remains of the destroyed orphanage, he finds himself journeying through a time loop where- surprise -the kids actually do exist and Abe was one of them. The rest of the story is yours to discover. I do not want to spoil anything, just get you hungry for the rest of the meal. Time loops, humans who turn into birds, a girl who can create fire in her hands, evil creatures called wights – all of these and more await you on Jacob’s journey to discover the peculiar past of his grandfather.
Ransom Riggs, the author, creates stunningly vivid landscapes with just a few simple words. You are certain to get sucked straight into the locales in this story. As I said previously, the book starts off in a completely different direction than I would have expected, and I feel it takes a tad too long to enter the world of peculiar children, but with a sequel out now, it makes sense to prolong the journey in the first book to get more miles out of the second. The pacing feels a bit bogged down in the beginning and then just breaks away in the later parts of the book.
The characters are fleshed out very well, giving each an endearing quality or, in the case of the bad guys, much to loath. Riggs goes beyond the static descriptions – “here’s the kid who can lift heavy stuff, here’s the invisible guy, here’s the shapeshifter” – and turns them into living, vibrant characters.
I was not expecting it to end on a cliffhanger, so I was quite surprised with the final direction of the story and wonder where else this story can go for another novel. In any case, it will be delightful to enter the world of Miss Peregrine and her peculiar children and see just which direction the story will go.
I highly recommend this book for the young adult in your household, and the parents, too. (You have to know what you’re kids are reading, right?) There are some more grown up themes like death, murder… angst. So keep this one away from the kiddos for a while.