Ransom Riggs and the Reinvention of Picture Books

Miss the picture books from your youth? Ransom Riggs’ YA series uses illustrations alongside outstanding prose to take you back to your childhood.

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At some point in our childhood, we made the switch from brightly-covered illustrated books with little text to lengthy chapter books. As we grew up, the pictures diminished, until the cover image was all that was left. Author Ransom Riggs strayed away from this norm with his breakout novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and continued to implement compelling photography within his YA series.

Creation of the Story

Ransom Riggs' breakout novel, 'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children'.

Some writers take years, even decades, to plot out their entire novel before even writing the first word. Author Veronica Roth spent four years writing Divergent but from Four’s point of view until she realized it wasn’t the right perspective and rewrote the novel as it is today. Orson Scott Card first wrote Ender’s Game as a short story before adapting it later into a novel.

As for Ransom Riggs, the new graduate had not been mulling over any intricate plot for a novel. Instead, he found himself interested in photography, and it was the photos first that inspired the bestselling story we know today.

The Photos in the Text

These eerie photos were all discovered by Ransom Riggs at swap meets. As a child, his grandma used to drag him to trade pawn shops all over LA and he found fascination with the photos at these shops. Years later after Riggs had graduated, he worked as an editor for a publishing company when his boss asked if Riggs had a story he wanted to publish.

Photos from 'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children'. The left is of two masked children, the middle is a child summoning light, and the right is a child crouching as a shadow looms over them.

With this new opportunity to write and publish a novel, he looked at his vast collection of photos realizing there was a story ready to be unraveled. Within the pages of his series of six novels, old photos are wedged between his chapters and give visuals for a strange story about unique children with curious gifts.


It’s rare to find novels today that include photography or illustrations (without including graphic novels). If you’ve finished Riggs’ series and want another novel that incorporates illustrations, A Monster Calls by Patrick Wess is the perfect recommendation.

The cover for Patrick Ness' 'A Monster Calls'.

A Monster Calls is a story about grief and family accompanied by beautiful imagery. This novel mirrors the dark tones from Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

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