Don't call them students of Xavier Institute for Higher Learning.
"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" features Bronwyn Buntley, a super-strong lass. Claire Densmore has an extra mouth hidden behind her head. And the Twins are masked twin boys. They happen to be Medusa's kin. The debut novel of Ransom Riggs is an introduction to the peculiar world of the peculiars, which would resemble Great Britain. The American author has read enough titles in British literature, especially ghost stories, in able to think of an alternative world where normalcy is not a norm.
"Tales of the Peculiar" is a companion book to "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," a collection of fairy tales that impart moral lessons to peculiars and non-peculiars alike. All stories would end with "And they live happily ever after", but there's a difference. Riggs would draw historical references, which will make this set of peculiar tales too real. Unlike the most beloved fairy tales, there's an uncertainty that leads to a twist. It can be shocking, even wrenching. Readers must keep an open mind (and heart). Here's a sample:
The Splendid Cannibals. A small village of modest peculiars in Swampmuck transforms into a prosperous town, where all but one house would be made of marble. The inhabitants have the ability to regenerate their limbs after being cut off, and it happens that they meet a small group of emaciated visitors during a fateful day. They have been struggling with hunger for six days. They are dressed head to toe in lush brocaded silk and swayed in their bejeweled saddles. They want to reach the coast of Meek, which boasts the highest rate of accidents and the most death by hanging. The villagers, who are compassionate almost to a fault, have made a deal with the wealthy cannibals. Riggs may have thought about the early history of capitalism, and this scathing tale shows how envy and greed can be vicious cycles. No one likes the sight of peculiars being tied on a wooden post, as they become a source of nourishment to families of cannibals. Fate can be a matter of choice, though.
The Woman Who Befriended Ghosts. Hildy's dead sister is her only friend. When she reached her eighteenth birthday, her sister got called away on a ghost business. "Try to make some friends," Hildy's sister said. This is supposed to be a hair-raising story, but it's filled with heart-breaking moments. Hildy's case is not a unique one, as it confirms the fact that man is a social creature. But Hildy is not your typical teenage girl.
The Pigeons of Saint Paul's. The pigeons in London would play pivotal roles during World War II. They're also around at the All-England Club (during the Wimbledon Championships). This is a comprehensive history of the contentious relationship between pigeons and Londoners. It can't be believed, as Britain was shrouded in magic many centuries ago. You must read it to believe it.
The Girl Who Could Tame Nightmares. Lavinia has the gift of removing nightmares from people. She will insert her pinkie finger into the patient's left ear, and then a thread of sooty, black stuff will be wriggling on the floor moments later. Riggs may have compared Lavinia to Arachne, such that the young girl has thought about her father being jealous about her ability. Her bubble would burst after her meeting with a young murderer. This is arguably the best story in the collection, as Lavinia (and the readers) struggle in the sea of emotions. No one, not even the gifted girl, can expect the denouement.
The Locust. Edvard is a young immigrant from Norway, who seeks his fortune in the Dakota Territory. He would learn (the hard way) that a life of compromise and deprivation can be a joy and blessing at times. His story is a bittersweet illustration of unconditional love, with twisted episodes in between. Tim Burton might consider this tale if he will be interested in "Hollow City."