Jacob’s grandfather used to tell him tales of a magical place. An island with a beautiful home where children with strange abilities lived, safe from harm, forever. As Jacob gets older he begins to question his grandfather’s stories – a girl who could float? A boy who had bees inside of him? What were the children “safe” from?
His parents told Jacob these were stories his grandfather made up to help explain away his childhood experiences during WWII. But how, then, to explain the photographs his grandfather showed him? They were old, yellowed and faded with age, way before digital photography was invented. Creepy scenes of children – an invisible boy, just a body with clothes and no head; a girl with two reflections instead of one; pictures that looked like circus acts but weren’t. Jacob gets angry, thinking his grandfather is lying to him, and they never speak of the stories again.
Until Jacob is 16. And his grandfather calls him, scared, looking for his guns, swearing “it” is after him. Then his grandfather gets killed, and Jacob finds him, and Jacob sees the terror in the shadows in the woods. That’s when Jacob begins to believe.
Suffering from a nervous breakdown following his grandfather’s death, Jacob has screaming nightmares, is often afraid to leave the house, and begins seeing a psychiatrist. Thinking that confronting his fears might help him, Jacob and his father travel to the island where Jacob’s grandfather was sent as a child during the war. Remote and isolated doesn’t even begin to describe the place, but Jacob is fixated on finding the house from his grandfather’s memories, and possibly a woman called Miss Peregrine, one letter from whom was found among Jacob’s grandfather’s things.
Piecing together stories from local townspeople, Jacob is told the house was bombed, and everyone in it perished, except for one young man (Jacob’s grandfather) who left the day after the bombing. But if they all died, how had Jacob’s grandfather received a letter from a woman who lived there 15 years later?
When Jacob finally finds the house, it has clearly been abandoned for a very long time. With more questions than answers, Jacob gathers his courage to explore inside. He finds a trunk containing photographs like the ones his grandfather used to show him. Going through them carefully, Jacob suddenly hears a noise. “Abe?” asks a girl’s voice. Abe was his grandfather. “Abe?”
And so, Jacob finds the children. And finds the answers. And comes face-to-face with the scary and awful and magical truth. By the end of this first book in what is clearly a series, Jacob must come to a life-changing decision: does he belong in the world of the children, forever?