Study Guide

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Themes

By Ransom Riggs

  • The Supernatural

    When you hear the word peculiar, what do you think of? Strange? Unusual? Quirky? In the case of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, we have to add supernatural to the list. If you've so much as glimpsed the cover, you probably know why—after all, there's a girl floating on it. And she doesn't even have balloons or a jetpack or anything helping her. And that's part of the book's big reveal (um, spoiler alert): The photos inside aren't just curious, the kids in them have each have a sort of superpower. And Jacob, our seemingly un-peculiar narrator, might have one, too.

    Questions About The Supernatural

    1. Did you expect the supernatural explanation for the strange photos?
    2. Why do you think the kids have powers? Do you think this will be explained? Does it even need to be explained?
    3. How does Miss Peregrine's equate the peculiar children with marginalized groups throughout history (Jews, witches, etc.)?
    4. Do the peculiar children remind you of other stories involving people with superpowers (like X-Men)? What are some similarities and differences between these stories?

    Chew on This

    Although the peculiar children often remain hidden, they are able to show themselves in public at times as long as they make themselves appear like "ordinary" freaks instead of outright supernatural, because most people don't play that close attention anyway.

    The time travel aspect is yet another supernatural part of the novel, and without it, Jacob never would get to know his grandfather's true identity. If only we all had that ability to learn our family history…

  • The Home

    We're kind of required to talk about this theme because the word home is in the title of the book. It's not Miss Peregrine's Basketball Court for Peculiar Children or Miss Peregrine's Restaurant for Peculiar Children or Miss Peregrine's Bus Station for Peculiar Children—it's a home. It's permanent… or at least it's supposed to be. And since it's kind of trapped in an infinitely repeating time loop of September 3, 1940 (long story), it better be homey, because once you're there, you might not ever want to (or be able to) leave.

    Questions About The Home

    1. What does Miss Peregrine do to make her home seem more like a home instead of an orphanage?
    2. Are the children happy at the home? Why or why not? If there are significant variations in how the kids feel, why do they exist? If there aren't, then why not?
    3. Why doesn't Jacob ever feel at home at his own home in Florida?
    4. Why does Jacob decide to stay in the loop at the end? Does he make the right choice?

    Chew on This

    Many of the children haven't known any place other than Miss Peregrine's home, so it's easy for them to be happy there.

    Just because you're born and raised somewhere doesn't make it home (especially if it's Florida). Jacob has to find where he truly belongs before he can call a place home.

  • Betrayal

    Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a book that, like Gretchen Wieners' hair, is full of secrets. And with secrets always comes betrayal. These two go hand-in-hand with each other because when a secret is revealed, there is always someone who wanted to keep it hidden—otherwise it wouldn't be a secret—and that person feels betrayed. When the secrets involve weird superpowers, like they do in this book, betrayal is an even bigger deal. The last thing you need is a rock dropped on your head or bees shot at your face.

    Questions About Betrayal

    1. Why does Jacob feel that his grandfather is lying to him when Jacob is a child? How does this perceived betrayal affect both Jacob and his grandfather while Jacob is growing up?
    2. Jacob's dad feels betrayed by Grandpa Abe, too. Why? And why has he still not dealt with it many years later?
    3. Why doesn't Jacob think twice about going through Emma's private belongings? Why doesn't he consider how she would feel if she found out? Why doesn't she make a bigger deal about it?
    4. Is Miss Peregrine doing the right thing by keeping Jacob's power from him? Why or why not?

    Chew on This

    Jacob, his father, and his grandfather all betray each other by not trusting one another.

    Emma is able to forgive Jacob's betrayal (for going through her belongings) pretty quickly because she's actually eighty-something years old and a lot more mature than Jacob is.

  • Courage

    The cover of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is creepy, so you have to be brave just to read it. And some of the photos inside are just darn scary, like the Santa one that belongs on the Creepy Santa Photos blog. Once you get inside the book, you'll find some brave characters, too, which is nice to have. If they were all cowardly like Shaggy and Scooby-Doo, we'd probably run the other direction with them. But Jacob is surprisingly brave, heading overseas and charging headfirst into one unfamiliar situation after another. Good on ya, kid.

    Questions About Courage

    1. What inspires Jacob to be brave? Use the text to support, please.
    2. Was Jacob's grandfather courageous to go to America by himself, or should he have stayed with his friends? Explain your reasoning.
    3. Almost all of the peculiar children get a moment of bravery. What does each person do to show their courage? What does this tell you about them as characters?

    Chew on This

    Courage runs in the Portman family… but it seems to have skipped a generation, and gone from Grandpa to Jacob. (Yeah, we're calling Papa Portman a coward.)

    It takes courage to seal yourself off from the rest of the world and time in order to protect yourself, the way Miss Peregrine does with the time loop.

  • Appearances

    Believe it or not, people were editing their photos way before Photoshop. Check out some of these vintage photos from as far back as the mid-1800s. The pictures of ghosts, men juggling their own heads, and cars made out of giant fish are just as peculiar, if not more so, than the peculiar photographs in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Now that we've read that book, though, we have to wonder if these photos were made using tricks at all. What if they're all of truly peculiar people?

    Questions About Appearances

    1. Do Emma and the other characters look like you picture them from the text? In other words, how do the words and images match up for you? If there are ways in which they don't, what changes would you make to sync them?
    2. What do you think Jacob looks like? Why isn't there a picture of him in the book?
    3. Miss Peregrine's home goes from dilapidated, to beautiful, to destroyed again. How does the appearance of Miss Peregrine's house reflect the mood of the story?

    Chew on This

    Both the peculiar children and the wights have to alter their appearance and the way they act in order to fit into the real world.

    Jacob doesn't just resemble his grandfather in personality, he also resembles him physically, like Grandpa's younger clone. Now that would be peculiar.

  • Identity

    Identity is a major theme in any young adult novel. Most young adults are trying to figure out what kind of no-longer-young adults they want to be. What college to go to, what career to pursue, who to start a relationship with—all of those are big questions.

    But in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, identity is a little more complicated. All of these kids have some sort of superpower that defines them. Super strength. Invisibility. Shooting bees out of their mouths. Okay, some are more practical than others, but no matter the power, theirs is a world where being peculiar helps you fit in.

    Questions About Identity

    1. What does Jacob want to be when he's a child? Why does this dream of his change, and how does he recapture it when he's sixteen?
    2. Would Emma like Jacob as much if he didn't remind her of his grandfather (her ex-boyfriend)? Use the text to support your answer.
    3. How does the revelation that Jacob is peculiar affect his sense of his own identity? Does he feel like he finally knows what he's supposed to do?

    Chew on This

    Jacob never quite fits in at home in Florida because, even though he doesn't know it, he's just as peculiar as his grandfather.

    Jacob is able to find himself by modeling himself on his grandfather, whom he admires. Jacob's father does not admire his own father, and is subsequently unable to make a solid identity of his own.

  • Isolation

    Check this definition of peculiar out:

    Peculiar comes from the Latin peculiaris, meaning one's own, or personal. In English, it originally meant belonging to one person, private, like your fondness for your peculiar hairbrush. It also had the meaning of something unlike others, special, or remarkable. Eventually we mostly stopped using it for belongings, instead using peculiar to mean unusual or odd. (Source.)

    We could make an argument for either definition—old or new—in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. The peculiar children of the title are definitely unusual or odd, but they're also special and remarkable. In order to stay safe, they have to stay private, sealed away from the rest of society. It's fitting, really, that both the old and new usage of the word work, since time has technically gone on, though the children are trapped in a loop of the past (until the very end, of course).

    Questions About Isolation

    1. Why did Grandpa Abe leave the home for peculiar children?
    2. Why is it important for the children to say isolated, not just in location, but also in time?
    3. Does a person, like the peculiar children, have to be isolated to stay safe? Is it worth it? Is it possible to find a balance between isolation and safety?
    4. Do you think Jacob will regret choosing to stay in the time loop, and never seeing his family again? How can you tell?

    Chew on This

    Jacob has always been isolated. He only has one friend in Florida, and he isn't even a very good friend, so moving to the realm of peculiar children is actually less isolating for him.

    Some of the peculiar children don't feel isolated because this is the only life they've known. That's why Miss Peregrine doesn't want Jacob telling them about the outside world—she doesn't want to ruin this contentedness for them.

  • Admiration

    It's important to have a positive role model, whether it be your grandfather or Wolverine. Although we're not sure how positive it is to have a role model who tears things up with his claws. (Tell your Granddad to stop doing that.)

    In Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Jacob has the double bonus of looking up to his grandfather who also happens to have superpowers. The problem is that as Jacob gets older, he stops believing Grandpa, and his admiration wanes. Jacob's need to make sure his grandfather is an honorable man worthy of his respect is a major driving force throughout the story. Heck, without it, he never would have gone to the island in the first place.

    Questions About Admiration

    1. Why does Jacob admire his grandfather so much when he (Jacob) is a boy? Why does this change as he gets older?
    2. Why doesn't Jacob's father respect his own dad? Do you think this will change after the events at the end of the book? How does Jacob feel about his dad's lack of respect for his grandfather?
    3. Why do Miss Peregrine and Emma and the other peculiar children think Grandpa Abe was so amazing? Examples, please.

    Chew on This

    Jacob's admiration for his grandfather is closely tied to how much he trusts him. When he realizes his grandfather was always telling the truth, he starts looking up to him again.

    Miss Peregrine and the peculiar children admire Jacob because he possesses many of his grandfather's best traits.