Last Updated on January 13, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1131
Born: February 3, 1979
Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series, 2011–15
Tales of the Peculiar, 2016
The Sherlock Holmes Handbook, 2009
Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescued from the Past, 2012
A talented filmmaker and writer, Ransom Riggs has become a popular figure in the world of young-adult fiction. His Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children fantasy series combines photography and story in a unique way that has drawn in both young-adult and older readers.
Ransom Riggs.By Thesupermat, CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons
Ransom Riggs was born in 1979 in Maryland and lived both there and near Englewood, Florida, while growing up. After moving to Florida at five years old, he went to Pine View School for the Gifted, a school that takes students from elementary school through high school. He also attended the Young Writer's Workshop at the University of Virginia for three sessions during high school. His two favorite pastimes as a child were writing and filmmaking, both of which he has pursued in his professional life.
His later academic career includes a bachelor's degree in English from Kenyon College and a master's degree in film from the University of Southern California. After graduate school, Riggs worked on creating and producing short films as well as freelance writing.
His writing career started with freelance pieces for Mental Floss, an Internet-based company that produces blogs, magazine articles, puzzles, and YouTube videos. This position offered him an opportunity to use his degrees and opened a door for his first book-length piece, The Sherlock Holmes Handbook, which was published in 2009. His own interest in photography, which started in childhood and turned to collecting strange old photographs, inspired his first young-adult novel, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2011). The first book in the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series was followed by Talking Pictures (2012); Hollow City (2014) and Library of Souls (2015), the second and third installments of the Miss Peregrine series, respectively; and Tales of the Peculiar (2016).
Riggs married Tahereh Mafi, another young-adult author, in 2013. The two live in Santa Monica, California.
The Miss Peregrine series of books is built around stories that protagonist young Jacob Portman was told by his grandfather, Abe, when Jacob was a child. Intertwined with the stories shared by Abe are strange and wonderful pictures of the peculiar people in Abe's tales. Closer to his grandfather than anyone else, Jacob grew up believing those tales until he began sharing them at school, where he was mocked for his blind faith and turned away from the past. As a young adult at the beginning of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Jacob's grandfather, who seems to be struggling with dementia, frantically calls him. Jacob and a friend go to check on the elderly man, and Jacob finds him lying in a wooded area behind his home. Abe is dying, but he is not alone. There is a monster nearby, one that has attacked him, and this monster, which only Abe and Jacob can see, is terrifying.
Torn, confused, and grieving after his grandfather's death and his vision of the monster, Jacob struggles to handle everyday life. So, when he gets a chance to travel to Cairnholm, Wales, the island where his grandfather grew up as an orphan during World War II, Jacob convinces his father to take him on a trip that could give him closure.
Closure is not exactly what Jacob finds when he wanders onto the grounds of the orphan home where his grandfather spent time as a child. Instead, he is pulled into an adventure with the very same group of children that his grandfather told him stories about. He discovers time loops, where women called "ymbrynes" protect peculiar people, often children, from monsters like the ones that killed his grandfather. He also discovers that he is peculiar as well.
The stories in the series follow Jacob as he befriends the peculiar children and seeks to rescue the ymbrynes who have been kidnapped by the "wights," a group of power-hungry men who had, years earlier, attempted an experiment that would lead to immortality. The experiment failed and turned those men into "hollowgasts," the kind of monster that had killed Jacob's grandfather. The hollowgasts can only become wights again by consuming power from the peculiar population. The kidnappings are the basis of a plan to return a group of hollowgasts to power over all of the peculiars.
In the second book, Hollow City, the peculiar children search for Miss Peregrine through a variety of times and places. They find her in London with another group of ymbrynes and peculiars, but they are all captured. Emma and Jacob narrowly escape. In Library of Souls, Jacob and Emma find and free the captured Miss Peregrine and the peculiars. Jacob returns home but has to contest his parents' disbelief and concern about his mental health.
Riggs's fourth book about peculiar children, Tales of the Peculiar, is not a part of the trilogy, but takes place within the same world. It is a collection of historical tales of peculiars from the time before Miss Peregrine's home.
The novels combine a variety of genres to keep readers glued to the pages: time travel, fantasy, and horror are the most obvious forms, but there is a bit of romance and family drama as well. The fantasy elements are mostly centered around the children's abilities. Jacob and his grandfather, for instance, can see the invisible hollowgasts. However, the other main children characters can do fascinating things such as lift heavy objects, create heat or fire through a touch, float in the air in defiance of gravity, bring inanimate items to life, or wander through life without being seen. Horror is mostly seen in the characters of the wights and the hollowgasts, violent and soulless creatures. A budding romance, which appears between Jacob and Emma, as well a few of the other peculiar teens, and Jacob's family drama add a bit of contemporary realism for readers who do not want a purely unbelievable story.
- Doll, Jen. "The Future of Books Is Experimental: At Home with Tahereh Mafi and Ransom Riggs." Mental Floss, 27 Feb. 2014, mentalfloss.com/article/55267/future-books-experimental-home-tahereh-mafi-and-ransom-riggs. Accessed 13 Feb. 2017.
- Russo, Maria. "A Book That Started with Its Pictures." The New York Times, 31 Dec. 2013, www.nytimes.com/2013/12/31/books/ransom-riggs-is-inspired-by-vintage-snapshots.html. Accessed 13 Feb. 2017.
- Riggs, Ransom. "About Me." Ransom Riggs, 2014, www.ransomriggs.com/about.php. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.
- Riggs, Ransom. "Miss Peregrine's Author Ransom Riggs, Interviewed by an Extremely Well-Prepared 11-Year-Old Fan." Interview by Lyra Kois. Slate, 26 Aug. 2016, www.slate.com/blogs/nightlight/2016/08/26/miss_peregrine_s_author_ransom_riggs_interviewed_by_an_11_year_old_fan.html. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.
- Riggs, Ransom. "Ransom Riggs: The Full Interview." Interview by Nate Pederson. Fine Books, 4 Feb. 2014, www.finebooksmagazine.com/fine_books_blog/2014/02/ransom-riggs-the-full-interview.phtml. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.