Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children
By Ransom Riggs
Quirk Books, 2011
Grandpa Portman told some pretty tall tales about growing up in an orphanage in Wales. He was the only one of his family to escape from Poland during World War II, and he had a number of photographs of peculiar children in his possession. Right before his grandfather dies, he beseeches his grandson Jake to “Find the bird. In the loop. On the other side of the old man’s grave. September third, 1940. Emerson – the letter.” These words made no sense to Jake. Plagued by dreams of the monsters he believes killed his grandfather, Jake is finally able to solve part of the mystery surrounding his grandfather’s death when his aunt gives him a volume written by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Inside the book is a letter from Headmistress Alma LeFay Peregrine, from Cairnholm Island, Cymru, UK. Jake is convinced that this is the island where his grandfather’s orphanage was located, and he sets off to find it.
First Jake has to convince his father to take him to Cairnholm Island, under the pretext of helping him with his book on the rare birds. Once at the island, his father sets off to identify birds, and Jake scouts for the home that served as the orphanage. The home he finds is in ruins, totally destroyed. At the local museum he finds out that the home was bombed by the Nazis on September 3, 1940, the date mentioned by his grandpa.
While moving a trunk upstairs in the abandoned house, it falls down to the basement and spills its contents of photos onto the floor. Suddenly he hears noises and a girl’s voice calling, “Abe, is that you?” The pictures have come to life. He follows the girl, Emma, through the cairn into the bog land and pub where he has been staying with his father. But, it isn’t the room above the pub that he knows in the present day--the people are all strangers. Jake realizes that he has traveled back in time to the fateful day, September 3, 1940.
Emma introduces Jake to others from the home, including Miss Peregrine, who identifies him as Jacob. Jake confesses that he is looking for her, and he realizes that the stories told to him by his grandfather were not fairytales, but the truth. He discovers that his grandfather had left the orphanage to fight in the war against the Nazis, despite Emma’s urging against this plan. He also finds out about “looping” and the fact that in this world, September 3, 1940 will repeat every day. Therefore those living in the loop are free to interact with the town’s people, comfortable in the knowledge that the next day all would be forgotten.
At the end of each day, Jake returns to the world of his father, only to return to Emma’s world during the day. His friendship with Emma and the inhabitants of Miss Peregrine’s home deepens, and he becomes more and more estranged from his father. Eventually Jake figures out that the letters his grandpa kept, were not letters from a strange woman, but letters from Emma.
Finally Emma reveals that Jake’s Grandpa’s special skill was being able to see the monsters, something that Jake realizes is his peculiar talent as well. He realizes that the monsters are real and that they actually killed his grandfather.
Born in Maryland during the 20th century, Ransom Riggs spent his early years in a 200-year-old farmhouse. Later his family moved to Florida where he attended the Pine View School for the Gifted and spent his youth swimming and writing stories on an old typewriter and in longhand on yellow legal pad. When he was a little older he received a camera for Christmas and became obsessed with photography. He started to take and collect pictures. Later still, he came into the possession of a half broken video camera and became fascinated with making films. He continues with his passion for writing stories, taking photographs, and creating films.
He attended Kenyon College where he studied English and then went to the University of Southern California to study film. While working on short films for the Internet and blogging on Mental Floss, he wrote The Sherlock Holmes Handbook, which was a tie-in with the release of the 2009 Sherlock Holmes film.
Next came Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which combined his love of writing strange stories with a collection of unusual photographs. Ransom claims that after this experience he “… never looked back.”
Ransom Riggs’s official website, www.ransomriggs.com
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Have students talk about the dark monsters in the story, and then ask them to create their own monster. This can be a drawing or writing exercise. Additionally, you can have three students work on drawing one monster; start by folding a long, piece of paper in thirds. Then, ask each student to draw one portion of the monster (head, torso, or legs) without seeing the work of the other students. The final monster will showcase the creative styles of three different students.
At the heart of the relationship between Jacob and his grandfather are the stories they shared. Encourage your class to share a favorite family story—whether it is humorous, silly, or touching. Decide if the stories will be shared orally or in writing. If the stories will be shared orally, give students tips and techniques for oral storytelling.
IN THE CLASSROOM
There are many amazing, interesting, and sometimes creepy photos found in the book found by Ransom Riggs at garage sales or in attics. Encourage your students to experiment with creating “peculiar” children in a variety of ways. They can take photos of themselves or their friends with their phones and then digitally enhance them (make sure to talk to them about interesting clothing to wear and props to use). There are a variety of apps out there; most students will already have a favorite app. Alternatively, students can find old family photos, copy them, and then make them otherworldly by using scissors and glue. After creating, finding, or altering a photo, have students write a short creative piece about their photograph. What special talent would their “peculiar child” have?
Find a local professional photographer to come to your class and talk about the basic principles of photography (the rule of thirds, foreground vs. background size, etc).
Have a class discussion on the benefits and disadvantages of time travel. Then, have students select a period in time they’d like to visit. Finally, ask them to write a persuasive essay about why the time period they’ve selected to visit is the most worthwhile.
Have students pick an aspect of WWII as related to the United Kingdom to research. Allow them to choose the type of final project to present: research paper, PowerPoint, video, PhotoStory, ThingLink, etc.
Islands are mysterious and unique places. Ask students to select an actual island in the world to research and then share their research through photos with the class. Make sure no two students select the same island.
For other helpful ideas, see the list of activities created by Karen Jensen at School Library Journal’s website, http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2011/07/share-it-miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-children/
You can also look at the discussion questions created by Learning to Give, http://learningtogive.org/teachers/literature_guides/teen/MissPeregrine.asp
2015-2016 California Young Reader Medal Resource Guide Miss Peregrine’s Home... - page