is a contemporary fantasy debut novel by American author Ransom Riggs. The story is told through a combination of narrative and a mix of vernacular and found photography from the personal archives of collectors listed by the author.
This young adult book was originally intended to be a picture book featuring photographs Riggs had collected, but on the advice of an editor at Quirk Books, he used the photographs as a guide from which to put together a narrative. Riggs was a collector of photographs, but needed more for his novel. He met Leonard Lightfoot, a well-known collector at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, and was introduced to other collectors. The result was a story about a boy who follows clues from his grandfather’s old photographs, tales, and his grandfather’s last words which lead him on an adventure that takes him to a large abandoned orphanage on Cairnholm, a fictional Welsh island.
The book has been a New York Times best seller. It reached the #1 spot on the Children’s Chapter Books list on April 29, 2012, after being on the list for 45 weeks, remaining there until May 20, when it dropped to the fourth spot on the list. Critics have generally praised the book for creative use of vintage photographs in the sepia style and surrealist form, as well as good characterization and settings.