Chapter 1 Summary
Ransom Riggs’s novel Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2011) follows a sixteen-year-old narrator as he investigates his grandfather’s very strange past. Jacob has always been fascinated by his grandfather’s stories even though he often had trouble believing they were true. But as he was growing up, Jacob found his Grandpa Portman to be the most fascinating person in his life. Jacob hoped to be just like his grandfather, who had fought in wars, explored the world, worked in circuses, and spoke several different languages. When Jacob was still a young boy, he told his grandfather that when he grew up, he wanted to be an explorer. His grandfather liked that idea and encouraged Jacob’s dream by helping him study maps and imagine trips he might one day take.
But as Jacob began to reach his teenage years, he became disappointed; he realized that many, if not most, of his grandfather’s stories were possibly untrue. Some of the most fantastic tales concerned the orphanage in Wales in which Grandpa Portman was raised. According to his grandfather, the place was protected by a wise hawk who disallowed monsters, sickness, or death to enter.
The children who lived in the orphanage were peculiar, Grandpa said. There was a girl who could fly, a boy in whom bees lived, and two young children who could lift boulders over their heads as if they were made of paper. When Jacob told his grandfather that he was having trouble believing his stories, Grandpa Portman produced photographs of the children. Jacob thought the photos might be fake, but he believed his grandfather just as other boys his age believed in Santa Claus. Jacob believed his grandfather because he wanted to believe.
Jacob’s father once told him that Grandpa Portman’s stories were not exactly lies. He explained that his father had lived in Poland during World War II and had been sent away to escape the Nazis. Grandpa Portman was the only member of his family who survived the war. So when Grandpa Portman told stories about monsters, he might well be referring to the Nazis and their horrid cruelties against Jews. In comparison to what was taking place in Poland, the orphanage where Jacob’s grandfather was sent must have seemed like a magical place, Jacob’s father explained.
When Jacob turned sixteen, he worked at one of his father’s drug stores. He hated the job and tried his best to get fired. But nothing worked. He...
(The entire section is 595 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
After his grandfather’s death, Jacob has recurring nightmares. While Jacob was holding his grandfather in his arms after finding him in the woods, he heard a noise, looked up, and saw a face. It looked like nothing less than a monster, with piercing eyes and multiple tongues protruding from its mouth. Ricky did not see it, but he shot at it with his BB gun. That image, the face of that monster, now appears to Jacob every time he falls asleep—and he wakes up screaming.
Jacob’s parents take him to Dr. Golan, a psychiatrist. Eventually Jacob tells the doctor everything he saw and heard the day his grandfather died. Jacob not only describes the monster, he also recalls every word his grandfather said. Among other things, his grandfather mentioned the name Emerson and something about a letter. Dr. Golan tells Jacob to go to the library and find Ralph Waldo Emerson’s published letters. There could possibly be a clue there. Jacob studies Emerson’s letter but finds no clues to his grandfather’s death or his final message.
When Jacob’s father and aunt go to clean out Grandpa Portman’s house, they take Jacob with them. Dr. Golan thinks it a good idea for Jacob to accompany them. If Jacob can confront the scene of that terrible night, it might help him get over the terror of his memories. Dr. Golan has convinced Jacob that what he suffers from is an over-reaction to trauma. The so-called monster he thought he saw might have only been a figment of his over-stimulated imagination.
Jacob searches his grandfather’s bedroom, looking for clues that might help him understand his grandfather’s last words. He finds more photographs of strange but obviously manipulated images. There is a picture of a young girl superimposed on a bottle so it looks like she is trapped inside. In another photo, a young baby appears to be levitating, but it is obvious that she is swinging from a rope.
Later, to lift Jacob’s spirits, his parents plan a birthday party for him. At the party, his aunt gives him a present that she says is not really from her. It is from Grandpa Portman. Jacob’s aunt found it in Grandpa Portman’s house when she was cleaning it. Inside the small package is a book that was written by Emerson. Inside the book is an inscription from Jacob’s grandfather, telling Jacob that this book is for him. Jacob is anxious to search the book for clues, so he leaves the party and goes to his room. On...
(The entire section is 597 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
After flying across the Atlantic, Jacob and his father arrive on Cairnholm Island via a ferryboat. As they near the shore, Jason looks down into the transparent water and sees capsized boats. A man tells him that the waters around the island are filled with shipwrecks. Many of them date back to World War II; German U-boats brought them down.
When the ferryboat docks, Jacob helps his father carry their suitcases into the small village. They look for the place called Priest Hole, where Jacob’s father had reserved a room. When they find the place, they discover it is only a rundown saloon that has one room to let. The room is shabby, and they are warned that the plumbing and heat sometimes do not work. When they order food, they learn that the cook only knows how to fix food that is fried, even their toast for breakfast.
The next day, Jacob’s dad becomes mesmerized by a flock of sea birds that are feeding from tidal pools. He tells Jacob that he would like to spend some time watching them. This leaves Jacob to find the orphanage on his own. His father allows Jacob to explore the island as long as he finds a guide who will go with him.
So Jacob sets off in search of a local person who knows about the orphanage. The only people who are willing to take him are two boys about his own age. They attempt to trick him by taking him along a muddy path and showing him an old building that they identify as the orphanage. They tell Jacob to go in by himself, which he reluctantly does, only to find out that the building is actually a stable for sheep. Jacob almost steps onto the floor, which is ankle deep in manure.
When Jacob convinces the boys that he is serious about finding the old orphanage, they point out the direction but refuse to take Jacob there. If he wants to investigate it, he will have to do so on his own, they tell him. Then they turn around and walk back to the village.
Once he is alone, Jacob is scared but realizes that his grandfather must have survived much worse when he came to the island, having to leave his family behind forever. So Jacob pushes himself to continue his search alone.
Jacob must cross muddy fields that make walking difficult. He wonders how Miss Peregrine, who must be in her nineties, manages to live so far off the main road. She must have everything delivered, Jacob concludes, as he walks along the old trail. After walking a good distance, he looks up...
(The entire section is 609 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
Jacob returns to the pub to find his father sitting at a table, eating his dinner. The teen tells his father about his exploration of the old orphanage. They begin to discuss Grandpa Portman; both father and son recall their own memories of the old man. Jacob asks his father about his relationship with Grandpa Portman. Jacob’s father responds that Grandpa Portman was not a good father. He traveled a lot and was seldom home. When he was home, he seldom opened up emotionally. Once when Grandpa Portman was gone, Jacob’s grandmother found a letter from a woman addressed to Grandpa Portman. In the letter, the woman wrote that she missed and loved Grandpa Portman. Jacob’s father assumed that his father was having an extramarital affair, possibly several of them. Jacob’s father also says that Grandpa Portman never took an interest in children until Jacob was born. It was as if Jacob received all the love Grandpa Portman had to give.
Jacob feels upset by what his father tells him. His vision of his grandfather has been marred by the news that he might have been an unfaithful husband. Jacob does not want to believe his grandfather was less than the adoring man he had known.
To sort out his thoughts, Jacob goes for a walk. He needs to find someone who knows more about his grandfather’s history. He walks to the old church he saw earlier in the day. The church has been transformed into a small museum of local history. Once inside, he looks around. The museum appears to be empty; Jacob sees neither visitors nor a curator. He is drawn to a special case sitting under spotlights. When he walks over and peers inside, he thinks he has seen an image from his nightmares. It is a face that is somewhat shriveled, the skin blackened by age. He jumps back, then he moves forward again to take another look.
Just then he hears a man’s voice coming from behind him. The man introduces himself as Martin Pagett, the curator. He tells Jacob this is a mummy that is more than twenty-seven hundred years old. It was found in the bogs and has become quite a local spectacle.
Eventually Jacob steers the conversation to his grandfather. He asks Martin if he knows anything about the old orphanage. Martin only has vague memories, so he suggests they visit his father, whose memories might help Jacob’s quest to find out more information about his grandfather.
Martin’s father is named Oggie. He tells Jacob that...
(The entire section is 603 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
When Jacob leaves for the orphanage the next morning, it is raining. The weather worsens as he nears the house, and by the time he steps inside he is soaking wet. He tries to shake some of the water off but is not very successful, so he turns his attention to his task. He must find clues concerning his grandfather’s life there at the strange school.
He searches the downstairs and finds nothing interesting, so he decides he must take the stairs. There are two sets of stairs—one goes up and one goes down to a basement. He decides to take the first staircase and ends up in a series of rooms that are musky and ravaged with dust and debris but otherwise appear as they might have looked when his grandfather lived there. There are beds with their covers, books on the shelves, and toys tucked into corners. As he wanders through the rooms, he identifies where the younger children must have slept. He also finds the room that must have belonged to Miss Peregrine. In the last room, he senses his grandfather, and he guesses that this was where Abe Portman once slept. Jacob finds a trunk under one of the beds. Although the locks are rusted, Jacob cannot pry the trunk open, so he decides to push it over the edge of the rickety staircase, hoping the trunk will open upon impact. The trunk does break but so does the floor, and the trunk falls to the basement.
Jacob rushes down the two flights of stairs and finds photographs scattered all over the basement floor. These photographs, which had been inside the trunk, are similar to the ones his grandfather had shown Jacob. He recognizes some of the same people. When he stands up and looks around the basement, he also finds large glass bottles. At first he thinks they are filled with vegetables and preserved fruit, but upon closer inspection, he sees they contain what look like human organs.
At this point, Jacob hears footsteps and voices upstairs. A few seconds later, he sees the face of a girl peering down at him. She looks like one of the girls in the photographs. He calls out to her but she runs away. He chases her through the woods and the bog until he reaches a rock cairn. He had seen pictures of the cairn at the museum. The cairn was built in ancient times, and it was near the cairn that the twenty-seven-hundred-year-old mummified body had been found.
When Jacob follows the girl’s footsteps around the cairn, he discovers a cave-like entrance into the pile of...
(The entire section is 848 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
Jacob continues on his way with Emma and Millard, thinking that any moment he is going to wake up from a dream. Finally the orphanage comes into view, but it looks nothing like it did when he visited the place on his own. The roof is intact. There are no tree limbs growing out of the windows. It looks beautiful. They walk up the solid steps that lead to the porch. Emma and Millard want to take Jacob to meet the headmistress.
While Jacob waits for the meeting, he looks out the window and watches the children in the yard. He is surprised when he sees one of the girls floating in the air; she has a rope tied around her waist, and two boys hold the end of it to keep her anchored. Jacob turns to Millard and asks why everything seems so unusual. He wants to know who everyone is. Millard tells him the trait they all share is that they are peculiar. Then Millard takes Jacob to Miss Peregrine’s office.
Miss Peregrine greets Jacob by calling him by name and telling him that she has been expecting him. Emma is astonished; she still believes Jacob is a spy. Miss Peregrine admonishes Emma for not trusting Jacob. She points out that Jacob is who he is, which anyone could see by just looking at him. He looks just like his grandfather.
Miss Peregrine dismisses Emma and Millard, and then she sits down to talk to Jacob. She first confesses that she visited his room in the form of a bird. This surprises Jacob. He tells Miss Peregrine about his grandfather’s death. Miss Peregrine says that Abe Portman could have stayed with them, but he chose to go out into the world. She is sorry he has died. She says she warned him this would happen. She also explains that Emma was in love with Jacob’s grandfather when he was about Jacob’s age.
Miss Peregrine fills Jacob in on what her world is like. She tells Jacob that the human species is far more complicated than most people realize. There are the common people, whom she refers to as the coerlfolc, who make up the majority of the population. Then there are the syndrigast, the peculiar ones. The peculiars exist in all parts of the world. They are often misunderstood and sometimes treated very poorly by other because they are so different. She started the orphanage so it could be a refuge for the peculiars. Miss Peregrine is one, too. Skills that are common among peculiars include the ability to read minds. Miss Peregrine’s specialty is her ability to...
(The entire section is 713 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
The next morning, Jacob enters the cairn and then exits into 1940. Emma is waiting for him. She encourages him to hurry because she wants him to see something. When they reach the orphanage, Emma takes him to the backyard, where a stage has been set up. Everyone is happy to see Jacob. Once he sits down, the show begins.
Several of the residents take turns going up on stage, showing off their skills. The show begins with Miss Peregrine, who changes her shape from a falcon to a human in front of the audience. The same young girl Jacob noticed the day before levitates high above the stage. Another girl lifts a bolder. As Jacob watches, Emma tells him that they used to put on a show like this for normal people. Jacob is surprised that they got away with it. People used to love the unusual, Emma tells him. Of course, they thought it was all tricks. Throughout the performances, Emma reaches over and pinches Jacob every time he says something she thinks is stupid. Jacob realizes this is how Emma flirts.
After lunch, they decide to go swimming. The best place to swim is in the harbor, although they will have to walk through the village to get there, which concerns Jacob. He does not want the angry mob of drunken men to chase him again. Emma tells him that the men will not remember him this time. Millard informs Jacob that he has been studying every detail about this day. He knows what every person and every animal will do. As they walk through the town, he announces when one person will cough or sneeze or when an animal will make a noise. Jacob finds this very entertaining.
Near the end of the day, Emma takes Jacob to the cairn. He asks her to go over to the other side with him. He would like to introduce her to his father. Emma is concerned. Miss Peregrine has told her that could be dangerous. But Jacob insists. He asks her to go just for a minute so he can take her picture. Emma agrees to this, so they both come out of the cairn, having crossed over to Jacob’s modern timeframe. They laugh and run around as Jacob takes pictures with his cell phone. Then they part, and Emma blows him a kiss.
When Jacob returns to the pub, his father questions Jacob’s sunburn. In Jacob’s natural timeframe, it has been raining on the island for days. Only in the 1940s timeframe has the sun been out. Before Jacob can provide an answer, his father takes him outside, where a group of local people has gathered. A farmer is...
(The entire section is 526 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
Jacob leaves his room before his father awakens. He does not want to have to explain where he is going or be interrogated about his sunburn again. When he arrives at the orphanage, Miss Peregrine calls him into her office. At the dinner table the previous night, she heard the children talking about the advanced technological gadgets of the future Jacob mentioned to them. She does not believe it is good for the mental health of her students to dream about things they will never see, so she tells Jacob not to be so specific about his life when he is with the younger children. If they start wanting to leave the island and the time loop they are in, the children’s true physical ages would quickly catch up with them, and in a matter of days they would be dead. Jacob agrees to curb his discussions.
After this meeting, Jacob goes searching for Emma but is told that she is in town on a shopping errand. So Jacob visits with other students. He finds a boy named Enoch outside. He is playing with what appear to be soldiers made out of clay. They seem to move on their own but do so without any sense of direction. Enoch takes one of the toys apart and shows Jacob a small, beating heart. He claims he took the organ from a live mouse to use it as a source of energy for his toy. That is Enoch’s peculiar trait—bringing life to inanimate things. Then Enoch sends Jacob up to a locked room inside the house.
When Jacob enters this room, he finds a dead body. He recognizes the face from one of his grandfather’s photos. It is Victor, the boy who was lifting a huge boulder over his head. Victor’s body is cold but not decaying. While Jacob is still in the room, Victor’s sister, Bronwyn, comes in. Bronwyn cries at the sight of her brother and begs Enoch to bring him back to life even if just for a few moments. Enoch considers this until they all hear Miss Peregrine coming up the hallway. They know they are not supposed to be in this room, so Bronwyn runs away and Enoch and Jacob become quiet. After Miss Peregrine turns into her office and closes the door, Jacob demands that Enoch tell him what happened to Victor, but Enoch refuses.
After Enoch leaves, Jacob wanders into Emma’s room while he waits for her to return. He finds a box of letters and cannot help but go through them. The letters were sent to Emma from Jacob’s grandfather. After reading them, Jacob understands that Emma was in love with Abe Portman, who promised...
(The entire section is 620 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
After Emma tells Jacob that his grandfather’s peculiarity was that he could see the monsters, Jacob confesses that he, too, can see them. Emma says she knew he had a gift even though she did not know what it was. The reason she knew he must be special is that common humans cannot enter a time loop as Jacob has been able to do.
Emma’s and Jacob’s evening alone is shattered when two of the older children appear. They are out of breath from running and insist that Emma and Jacob follow them back to the orphanage. Once they are inside the home, they find Miss Peregrine taking care of an older woman who appears to be in shock. Jacob recognizes the woman as Miss Avocet, Miss Peregrine’s teacher.
While Miss Peregrine attempts to settle Miss Avocet, Jacob cannot control his anger. He wants to know why Miss Peregrine has been untruthful with him. He believes she has been attempting to lure him into staying at the orphanage so he might protect them. Miss Peregrine responds by telling Jacob that if she had told him about the monsters, he might have been overwhelmed. This is when Jacob tells Miss Peregrine that he has seen a monster—the one that killed his grandfather.
Miss Peregrine is sad to hear this is how Abe Portman died. She then tells the story of Abe’s life as she knew it. Abe saw himself as a soldier. He first fought the Nazis and then he went to America and fought the monsters. He was determined to protect all the peculiars he could. Jacob realizes this is why his grandfather was often gone. The hunting trips his grandfather took were not to hunt animals but rather to hunt the monsters.
Finally Miss Avocet is stabilized enough to tell what happened to her. She says that a wight, a peculiar who lives outside a time loop and acts as a spy, lured her into a trap. There were monsters waiting for her, wanting to kill her. Fortunately she escaped. But she had to make it to the orphanage to warn Miss Peregrine that monsters were indeed on the island.
After Miss Avocet is stable, Miss Peregrine takes Jacob to the side and explains what is going on. She says she had two brothers who were brilliant but misguided. They wanted more than merely living in a time loop forever; they wanted immortality in the real world. But their experiment went awry. They did not become gods as they wished, but rather they became more like devils, creatures called hollowgast, with split tongues and no souls....
(The entire section is 619 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
Time is running out for Jacob to choose between going home with his father or staying in the time loop of 1940 with Miss Peregrine and her peculiar students. His time on the island will come to an end when his father leaves in five days.
In the midst of Jacob’s decision making, the museum curator, Martin, goes missing. Some fishermen find his body, which looks like it might have been thrown off the cliff into the water. When they pull the body out, they see gaps in his flesh as if perhaps some large fish had been eating it. There are many speculations as to what might have happened. Most of the villagers want to believe that Martin got drunk and simply slipped off the cliff. But they cannot overlook the fact that Martin was dressed strangely to have been out in the night for a stroll—Martin was wearing his pajamas.
When Jacob returns to the orphanage the next day, Miss Peregrine greets him. She tells him that he cannot continue moving back and forth between the two time periods. He either must stay at the school or leave and never come back. A monster and a wight are on the island and a common person has been killed to feed the monster. Jacob’s coming and going will attract their attention and lead them back to the orphanage, but Miss Peregrine will not allow Jacob to put her students in peril.
Jacob wants both worlds. He does not want to be told he cannot have this freedom. In particular, he feels he must return to tell his father of the dangers but he does not want to leave Emma behind. When Jacob goes to Emma’s room and tells her what Miss Peregrine has said, Emma says she is coming with Jacob. Jacob thinks this is a bad idea, but Emma insists. She is tired of being cooped up in the orphanage. Since the threat of the monsters, Peregrine has not allowed anyone to even go out into the yard to pick fruit and vegetables out of the garden. Emma is tired of sitting around and waiting for the danger to come to them. She wants to go out and stop it. With Jacob, she believes they will be successful. Bronwyn, the girl with extraordinary strength, and Enoch, who can make people come back alive, decides to join Jacob and Emma.
They find where the villagers are keeping Martin’s body. When they find it, Enoch brings Martin back to life just long enough for him to tell them who killed him. It was definitely the monster. As they are about to leave the dead body, a man appears at the door. He knows Jacob...
(The entire section is 899 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
With Miss Peregrine still in bird form, the children walk back to the orphanage. As they get closer, they smell smoke. Something is wrong. The Nazi planes have passed over and the bombs have been dropped, but unlike all the other times, the house has not been spared. The time loop is not right. Miss Peregrine has not been able to reset it as she had done all the other times this day was repeated.
The children discuss their options about what to do next. They could stay and attempt to rebuild the house and resume life as closely as they could to what it had been before the invasion of the wight and the monster, but this would not solve the problem of Miss Peregrine’s not being able to turn back into her human form. They need help.
Emma and Jacob tell the others that before he died, the wight known as Dr. Golan confessed that the other wights and the monsters were gathering again, hoping to redo the experiment they had tried before—the one that had turned them into the creatures they had become. This time, however, they were gathering all the superior peculiars, such as Miss Peregrine and Miss Avocet. They hoped to bring all the power they could find to their next experiment. Knowing the wights’ purpose, Emma believes they have to find where the wights haven taken Miss Avocet. They need her help in transforming Miss Peregrine to her human form. Their troubles might be over if they can find Miss Avocet.
But no one knows where the wights have gone until one of the children who can see into the future speaks up. He draws a picture of what he sees, but the picture is too vague. All they know is that there is snow on the ground and a compound surrounded by a strong fence, like a prison. Emma remembers a book of maps Miss Peregrine had in her library. She runs into the smoldering house and brings it outside. The collection of maps shows where the entrances to other time loops are. She guesses that the wights will go to one of these entrances. They just have to discover which one.
Before they leave to find the wights, Jacob returns to his normal time to visit his father. He wants to explain what he is doing. When he attempts to write a letter to his father, the words feel all wrong. Just then, his father awakens and enters Jacob’s room. When Jacob says he is not going home with him, his father becomes very angry and insists that Jacob pack his things because they are leaving. At this point, Emma...
(The entire section is 566 words.)