Something peculiar happened to children’s books in 2011.
Ransom Riggs introduced readers to a world of young people with special powers, time loops and soul-hunting spirits in “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.”
Illustrated with eerie vintage photographs, the novel spent two years on the New York Times bestseller list, launched a multivolume literary universe and inspired the 2016 Tim Burton film of the same name.
The fifth novel in the series, “The Conference of the Birds,” hits shelves Jan. 14, and Riggs will showcase it in Austin on Jan. 20.
Peculiars are children with unusual powers, like levitation or invisibility. Series hero Jacob Portman, hunting for the answers behind his grandfather’s death, initially discovers the peculiars on an island off the coast of Wales, watched over in an infinite time loop by Miss Peregrine, who can shape-shift into her namesake bird. Their world is threatened by hollowgasts, who feed off the souls of peculiars, and wights, who have consumed enough of those souls to assume human form (albeit with spooky all-white eyes).
Throughout the books, Jacob and his friends have traveled to London, peculiar capital of the world, and to America, where some of the same characters started a new adventure in “A Map of Days.”
“Birds” starts where “Days” left off, with Jacob and newly recruited peculiar Noor on the run from those who want to capture her. A forbidding prophecy commands Noor’s safety, and Jacob knows that means he must get her to the mysterious V, a former associate of his grandfather’s.
Easier said than done, of course. With each of the books in the series, Riggs uncovers more of the peculiar world underpinning our own. As Jacob explains what he’s gleaned over the course of his adventures, we learn along with Noor.
“Do you ever get used to it?” Noor asks Jacob after they slip through another time loop from modern-day Chinatown in New York to Industrial Age 19th-century London.
“I still have moments where I look around and my head swims,” he says. “Like I’m in the grip of some … ”
“‘I was going to say dream.’
“She nodded, a small assent, and I felt a shared recognition flicker between us: of a darkness mutually understood, and of a thin, golden thread of wonder and hope that ran through the fabric of the new world. There is more, it said. There is more to the universe than you ever imagined.”
Riggs’ appearance is just one of many worthy authors for young people on the lineup this month at BookPeople, starting Saturday. Austin brothers Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey launch their stellar picture book “The Old Truck” (Norton, $17.95) at 2 p.m. “Truck” celebrates the power of persistence through the title vehicle, with a sweetly profound story about a young girl and her African American farming family. (Ages 4-8.) Then at 5 p.m., Austin’s Carolyn Cohagan unveils “Time’s Up” (Girls With Pens, $14.95), the finale to her female-focused dystopian trilogy that draws its world-building in part from restrictive religious mores around the globe. Cohagan, who also helms creative writing workshops for teens, wraps up her story with Mina and Juda returning to Manhattan with orders to assassinate the Divine Leader. (Ages 12 and older.)
Later in January, Houston’s Saadia Faruqi highlights a quartet of her newest Yasmin adventures, with the irrepressible second-grader exploring her roles as friend, gardener, soccer star and writer (All, Picture Window Books, $5.95 each). First introduced in 2018’s “Meet Yasmin,” Faruqi’s young hero enjoys experiences both universal (challenging class projects) and distinctive (her multigenerational Pakistani family). Illustrated by Hatem Aly, these books are a wonderfully diverse window into Yasmin’s world. Faruqi will be at BookPeople at 2 p.m. Jan. 18. (Ages 5-9.)
A trio of young adult authors round out the month with a panel steeped in magic and fantasy. Isabel Ibanez draws on Bolivian history for her debut novel, “Woven in Moonlight” (Page Street, $18.99), a richly entertaining political romp set at a royal court. Adrienne Young returns to the Viking-esque world of “Sky in the Deep” with “The Girl the Sea Gave Back” (Wednesday, $18.99), a tale of a tattooed warrior with special powers. And Shea Ernshaw maps the linked stories of witch Nora and once-missing boy Oliver in the alluringly scary “Winterwood” (Simon Pulse, $18.99). The three writers will appear at 7 p.m Jan. 31. (All, ages 14 and older.)