Literature / Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

For years, Jacob had delighted at his grandfather's tales of growing up during World War II in an orphanage run by Miss Peregrine and populated by children like himself. Well, not quite like himself. These children were peculiar. Very peculiar.

Today, Jacob is 16 and has outgrown these silly fairy stories… but when his grandfather is killed under strange circumstances, Jacob has only his grandfather's stories and a collection of strange photographs to follow as he finds himself delving deeper into his grandfather's past, where he learns that these silly fairy stories are neither silly nor fiction… and the peculiar children his grandfather spoke of might still be alive…

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is Ransom Riggs's debut novel, and mixes real antique snapshots with a haunting narrative to paint a world where peculiar children might conceivably exist.

The trilogy by Ransom Riggs:
  1. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
  2. Hollow City
  3. Library of Souls

A film adaptation of the first book, directed by Tim Burton, was released on September 30th 2016.

This page contains tropes (and spoilers!) for the whole trilogy.

The books contain examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Several of the children had these, most notably Emma.
  • Action Girl: Bronwyn, Emma, and Melina.
  • Addictive Magic: Jacob suspects loops' magic works like this.
    It was as if just being here had some kind of narcotic effect on me; like the loop itself was a drug—a mood enhancer and a sedative combined—and if I stayed too long, I’d never want to leave.
    If that were true, I thought, it would explain a lot of things, like how people could live the same day over and over for decades without losing their minds.
  • Adult Fear: A sinister group of once human monsters stalk a group of children with the intention of either experimenting on them or eating them. The more human ones have infiltrated pretty much every strata of human society that could help them, while the more abominable ones are super strong, high endurance giants that are invisible. Even if they knew what was going on, odds are Jacob's parents would be all but powerless to protect him.
    • Driven home with the case of Miss Avocet, whose loop was invaded and whose charges were used as hostages to force her to surrender to the wights. When she and her partner complied, the wights simply fed the children one by one to their hollowgasts.
  • Advertised Extra: The girls in the pictures on the cover of the novels fit this trope to different extents. This seems to be a bit of an Enforced Trope; their characters correspond with particularly striking photographs:
    • Subverted with Olive, on the first book's cover. She's not on the same level of plot-relevance as Jacob or Emma, sure, but she's one of the most talkative and genuinely helpful members of the supporting peculiar cast. She also becomes more relevant in the second book.
    • Sam, the girl on Hollow City's cover, plays this completely straight, showing up for a single chapter that borders on a Shoot the Shaggy Dog/Bizarro Episode, as she has no relevance on anything before and is outright said to be a peculiar who was never saved and died during the Blitz.
    • The boy on the cover of Library of Souls doesn't actually appear in the book but was used as a propaganda poster by the Claywings
  • Alliterative Name
    • Bronwyn Bruntley
    • Fiona Frauenfeld
    • Bekhir Bekhmanatov
    • Melina Manon
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Jacob to Emma late in Hollow City.
  • Animal Motifs: Birds. Miss Peregrine, duh.
  • Author Appeal: The books are full of stange, anonymous, antique, Spooky Photographs that Ransom Riggs loves.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Jeffrey Dahmer was a wight.
  • Beta Couple: Hugh and Fiona.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Why Sam refuses to leave her normal sister behind and go with the peculiars.
  • Black Speech: The hollowgast's wheezes and snarls are actually their language. Jacob can understand it, speak it, and use it to control them.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: Emma attempts this on Jacob to make him go back to his own time period where he'll be safe. It doesn't work. Mutually tried at the end of Library of Souls, and it still doesn't work,
  • Cain and Abel: Caul and Bentham in Library of Souls
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Ambrosia and peculiar sheep's wool in Library of Souls.
  • Circus Brats: All of the peculiars before Miss Peregrine established their loop.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: For all the peculiar children, but particularly Jacob.
  • Creepy Child: A lot of the children at Miss Peregrine's orphanage.
  • Creepy Twins: Dressed as clowns, no less, though they never actually show up.
    • In the sequel, Joel-and-Peter.
  • Cthulhumanoid: Hollows, with emphasis on the "Cthulhu" part. They've got a roughly humanoid frame, but their mass of Combat Tentacle tongues are so much stronger and longer than their limbs that they use them as substitutes for their arms and legs, which are functionally vestigial.
  • Deus ex Machina: In the first book, it's set up that the peculiar children, who've been living in a this loop for near a century, cannot leave it, or try will age forward and die. This creates a difficult situation for Jacob. But come Library of Souls, a plot device has reset everyone's age, and it's hand waved away.
  • Defrosting the Ice Queen: Jacob to Emma.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Jacob's grandfather dies in his arms at the start of the book.
  • Eldritch Abomination: As weird as the kids are, they look positively normal next to the hollowgasts and wights…
  • Extranormal Institute: Miss Peregrine's Home counts.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Mr. White expresses his disgust at fellow wight soldier when said soldier begins sexually harassing Emma.
  • Eye Scream: Jacob kills a hollowgast this way.
  • Foreshadowing: Jacob first manages near-total control over a hollowgast after spending an entire night's sleep commuting with it subconsciously. The trick to taking control over the entire herd of them is falling into a coma along with them.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: The nature of the time loops.
  • Healing Factor: Sam, can have entire chunks of her body completely torn apart without even a little bit of bleeding, and the wound completely heals up within a day or so. Millard believes that since she never lived in a loop, and such a profoundly powerful ability would have made her famous among peculiars, that she eventually took a wound she couldn't recover from during the Blitz and died.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Bentham, Miss Peregrine's brother, assists the children into infiltrating Caul's fortress, but later betrays them. However, in the climax, he pulls a Heroic Sacrifice to stop his brother.
  • I Choose to Stay: In the end, Jacob chooses to stay with the children in looking for surviving ymbrynes.
    • He comes very close to leaving in Hollow City, only for everything to go to hell when the wights capture everyone. He's not going anywhere.
  • Island of Mystery: Cairnholm—it's got quasi-time travel, and an Extranormal Institute… as well as the much less glamorous trappings of a small remote Welsh island.
    It was my grandfather's island. Looming and bleak, folded in mist, guarded by a million screaming birds, it looked like some ancient fortress constructed by giants. As I gazed up at its sheer cliffs, tops disappearing into a reef of ghostly clouds, the idea that this was a magical place didn't seem so ridiculous.
  • An Ice Person: Althea has ice powers.
  • The Infiltration: Caul is able to capture Jacob and the other peculiars by pretending to be Miss Peregrine in bird form
  • Made of Plasticine: Sam, although it's justified since it's her peculiarity.
  • Master of Disguise: In the first book, the main wight dramatically reveals himself as having been the new-in-town "professional birdwatcher", as well as Jake's middle school bus driver, his grandfather's neighbor, his family's yard-worker, and his psychiatrist.
  • May–December Romance: Averted with Emma and Jacob. Even though Emma is technically in her eighties, living in the loop means she hasn't aged physically or emotionally in decades and is still essentially a teenager.
  • Meaningful Name: Miss Peregine, who can transform into a bird. It seems all ymbryne have these, such as Miss Finch, who can transform into a finch, and so on.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Jacob's father Franklin and his sister Susie always thought that their father was cheating on their mother with another woman because they found letters addressed to him from a woman who called herself "E." It turned out to be Emma, and he wasn't cheating on his wife with her.
  • Muggles: Called variously "normals", "non-peculiars", and "coerlfolc".
  • Neurodiversity Is Supernatural: Jacob, who early in the novel is diagnosed with acute stress syndrome and suffers panic attacks, hallucinations, and possibly PTSD...Actually just can see hollowgasts, and his symptoms are him responding to their presence.
  • No Immortal Inertia: If a child leaves the loop for too long, time will catch up to them and they will rapidly age, to grisly effect. When the ymbrynes destroy the titular loop at the end of the third book, the rule is subverted; each person's age is reset to their loop age, allowing them to age forward at a normal speed when taken out.
  • Oh Crap!: Once the children realize that the time loop is continuing past what it should, which means they're going to get bombed very soon.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Sam reacts this way to being impaled. Apparently, it's happened before. Millard thinks that in the end, she suffered a wound too severe to shrug off.
  • Our Time Travel Is Different: In order to keep the children safe, Miss Peregrine has hidden them away in a little pocket of time where it has been September 3rd, 1940 ever since… September 3rd, 1940. She makes sure the time loop resets just before the Germans bomb the everloving crap out of the Home, and the children have not aged since that day, though they remember each iteration of the day. It is mentioned that other ymbrynes have created similar time loops as refuges for other groups of peculiars.
  • Parental Substitute: Miss Peregrine for the children. Particularly Emma, who outright calls her the only real mother she's ever known—she even celebrates her birthday on the day she met Miss Peregrine; the day her real mother got her.
  • Posthumous Character: Victor, who's long dead before the events of the first book and is never shown alive on-screen.
  • Psycho Psychologist: Played straight with Jacob's doctor in Library of Souls. For one thing, he's a wight.
  • Secret Legacy: Grandpa Portman left some pretty big shoes for Jacob to fill.
  • Series Continuity Error
    • In the show the peculiars put on for Jacob in the first book, it's stated that Miss Peregrine's clothes don't shape-shift with her. Not true by the final book.
    • In Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children Horace says he's 83. But in Hollow City, he says he wants to live to see his 105th birthday, implying he's 104.
    • In the first book, Jacob takes an apple from the loop and puts in on his bedside table. In the morning—maybe 10 hours later—it has aged forward. But by books two and three, it's possible to spend a 2 or 3 days outside a loop.
  • Single-Minded Twins: Peter-and-Joel; it's one of their peculiarities.
  • Soul-Sucking Retail Job: Jacob was stuck working in a grocery store at the beginning of the story, and he desperately wanted out. He lost it after his grandfather died, and said that his "only job was getting better."
  • Spooky Photographs: Used as spectacle and illustration throughout the books. And the best part is that they are all real antique photos collected by the author (and several of his friends and fellow hobbyists) before he ever started writing the story.
  • Team Mom: Emma and Bronwyn tend to take these roles.
  • Theme Naming: The ymbrynes are all named after birds. Which makes sense, considering they can turn into them.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted in the first book, where they're used for plot reasons instead. When Jacob is traumatized and having nightmares, his parents send him to a competent, professional, realistic-sounding therapist to deal with the grief and trauma.
  • Those Two Guys: A pair of twins constantly shows up in photographs, but we never get to actually meet them.
  • Time Master: The ymbrynes, which have the power to manipulate time.
  • Time Travel Romance: A major problem in Emma and Jacob's relationship.
  • Took a Level in Badass: A lot of the peculiar children in Hollow City, once they start using their abilities to fight the hollowgast and the wights. Special mention goes to:
    • Emma, for burning a hollowgast's tongue off
    • Hugh, for summoning an army of bees to kill the wights that had taken the others captive
    • Jacob, whose ability develops over the course of the story to not only seeing the hollowgast, but also being able to sense them, speak their language, and ultimately control them.
  • Trapped in the Past: Jacob, in Hollow City.
  • The Mole: Jacob's psychiatrist, Dr. Golan, was a wight. Jacob told him everything he knew about the children, apparently.
  • The Shadow Knows: A hollow is invisible to common people until it's about to eat. (Read: "Until it's too late.") However, its shadow is always visible.
  • The Tunguska Event: Comes up as a plot point. It was apparently caused by the attempt of renegade peculiars and their allies to gain eternal youth without being confined to loops, utilizing the site of a long-disused time loop in the Siberian tundra for their experiment.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifter: Miss Peregrine (and others like her, called ymbrynes) can turn into birds. The reason given is that only birds can master the time loops.
  • Wham Line: When Jacob asks Emma what made his grandfather peculiar:
    Emma: He could see the monsters.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Before Jacob joins the other peculiars on their journey at the end of the first book, Emma warns him that the time loop will close once they leave it, and it will be very difficult for Jacob to return to his own time again, if he even can. He nonetheless agrees to go with them after going back to say goodbye to his father.

The film contains examples of:
  • Adaptational Superpower Change:
    • In the books Emma’s peculiarity was the ability to create and control fire, whilst Olive’s was being lighter than air. Here their powers are switched with Olive being the pyrokinetic and Emma an aerokinetic with uncontrollable levitation as just one aspect of her powers.
    • In addition to the Prophetic Dream ability he has in the books, the film version of Horace can project the images from his dreams into the air through his right eye using a special lens.
    • At one point in the book whilst explaining to Jacob about Wights, Miss Peregrine states they don’t have any peculiarities. In contrast the Wights shown in the film still have their powers from when they were Peculiars; specifically Mr Barron is a Shape Shifter and two Canon Foreigner Wights include a Cryo-kinetic man and a half-rat woman.
    • The method by which the Hollows become Wights is different. In the books it’s achieved by absorbing a Peculiars’ soul, in the film it’s by consuming a Peculiars’ eyes.
      • A visual metaphor for devouring souls, since eyes are often referred to as "windows to the soul".
  • Age Lift: In addition to changing Olive's power from floating to fire, the film also ages her up to be of an age with Emma and Jake, while simultaneously aging down Bronwyn to be a small girl. Enoch was also much younger in the original book.
  • Death by Adaptation: Miss Avocet is killed by a Hollowgast while she survives in the book
  • Karmic Death: Mr Barron is killed having his eyes devoured by a Hollowgast; the same thing he did to countless Peculiar Children over the years.
  • Running Gag: Jacob trying to hit the Wights like Ms. Peregrine, and missing literally every time. Lampshaded by Mr. Barron.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The ending and the events leading up to it are much different than in the first book, as well as having several characters acting somewhat differently and/or being vastly different characters than in the book. These changes can be explained by the filmmakers wanting a more action-packed finale and to avoid tying the film's story to a sequel that may never surface. The changes work to make the film work ether as a standalone piece or as part of a series.
  • The Cameo: Director Tim Burton cameos as a confused fair ground goer during the battle between the Hollowgasts and Enoch's skeletons.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Miss Avocet is suddenly killed by a Hollowgast in a middle of a speech.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: How the loops work, at least in the movie. At first when Jake enters and leaves the Loop, the same amount of time seems to have passed on both sides (excepting for the reset within the Loop). If anyone from within the Loop spends too long in Jake's time (2016, when the Loop is stuck in 1943), they will rapidly age until they are the age they would have been in 2016 (as shown with a flower). When the Loop collapses, anyone inside is returned to moment the Loop was created. But then when the wight who killed Jake's grandfather dies in a Loop months before that happened, and the Loop collapses, Abe was never killed even though it was in the personal past of both Jake and the wight. Despite the aging effect of leaving a Loop in the future from said Loop, doing it in the past does not seem to have a de-aging effect. And then at the end Jake is somehow able to go from 2016 back to 1942 by navigating Loops (presumably without making them collapse, which their ymbrynes would not have agreed to). Confused yet?

Alternative Title(s): Miss Peregrines Home For Peculiar Children