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The Grimm Curse by Polly Shulman

My daughter Mimi is an avid reader. She sometimes tells me about her favorite books, and that makes me want to read the books she talks about. The opportunity arose in the last few months, I wanted to get out of my personal development books. Mimi was sure I would like this book because I love the world of retold tales.

The heroine is a young teenager of 15 years old, her name is Elizabeth Rew. Her life seems to be that of Cinderella: a living but absent father, a shallow stepmother and two inconvenient stepsisters. Elizabeth struggles to fit in at her high school, but studiously catches the eye of her history teacher Mauskopf with a paper she turned in that reveals her passion for storytelling. He offered her a small job in the library “Lost and Found of New York City”, she had to introduce herself to Doctor Rust.
It is for her the occasion to make new meetings. She realizes that the Depository is not an ordinary library since there are no books but “Special Collections”, in particular the Grimm collection on which a curse hangs…

The Deposit of borrowable items

I was immediately under the spell of the Depot, which the author describes so well, the places, the objects and the functioning. We are very quickly transported into this 18th century warehouse, full of history and we are plunged into a most mysterious and enchanting atmosphere.

I kept telling Mimi that it would be really great if such a repository could exist. The author really had this wonderful idea to make a book around an object library ! She mentioned the New York Public Library so I went to see what that library might look like ! This way I could better imagine American architecture.

Elizabeth had the strangest job interview, really weird. Dr. Rust asked her to sort buttons… and of course she passed with flying colors, leaving her dumbfounded. Elizabeth had quite a few questions… The doctor told her this :

“You will discover that each object here has its own qualities. You will find that the materials in our collections speak to us.”

I love to be told about objects, about their own emotional history because they have passed through time. That’s why I liked this book, it’s about discovering not books but special objects (for example those from the Grimm collection). They have value, power…and make us understand why they can do a lot of harm if they fall into the wrong hands !

A little love story

Elizabeth knows Marc Merritt because they attend the same class. He is on her school’s basketball team and is very popular with the girls. He is the taller, African-American version of Jet Li (Hahaha! Jet Li is my favorite actor from my childhood, so I took the opportunity to ask Mimi if she knew him. No ? Well I just have to show her my favorite movies of his !)

On her first day of work, she met Anjali Rao, a very pretty Indian girl, who could dress like a potato and still be pretty. (This name echoed a name from my life that I had forgotten and loved. It was a Sanskrit name given to me by the Tantric monks of the Ananda Marga. They said that this name meant “Gift of God”. It’s been so many years since I’ve seen or read this name, so I was super happy that this book made me think of it).

Jaya is Anjali’s potty-mouthed little sister. She is 10 years old and seems to have more sense than the others…

Aaron Rosendorn‘s first meeting with Elizabeth didn’t go very well. He is suspicious and jealous of Marc, whom she is dating in high school. Elizabeth thinks he is in love with Anjali because he is always so pleasant around her!

The teens (and adults) are really all different with their own personalities. I loved watching this circle of friends grow as together they manage to face the difficulties. Plus there’s a little love story and it made me smile sweetly. It’s funny.

Dreams and magic !

I really like the way the author shows us how the Depot works. I found it very original, well thought out, and…. magical :

  • To work in this repository, you have to pass a very weird job interview.
  • To be able to access the Grimm Collection, you have to pass a test in writing, always so strange, and then obtain a key, which is not what you expect.
  • To use this key, you have to sing correctly to get in, but sing backwards to get out! Obviously, Elizabeth has some difficulties with this strange exercise, and she sings badly and wrongly. I felt sorry for her…
  • People who borrow special objects must leave a deposit. It is not money but rather a capacity that one has, for example his sense of humour, memories of childhood etc. I found this incredible! And beware, if the returned object is defective, it will be impossible for the borrower to recover his deposit. All this is not without risk!

I found this book a little too slow towards the middle, maybe I’m impatient to know quickly the end of the mysteries ? And after the first volume, I was a little hungry… But I think that by reading the others, it will fill this feeling (?!)

This book is the first volume of a series of three, I just have to continue reading the following ones :

  • The Grimm Curse
  • The H.G. Wells Expedition
  • The Edgar Poe Nightmare


This is also an opportunity to get to know the Grimm brothers: Wilhelm (1786-1859) and Jacob (1785-1863). They wrote stories so frightening and violent that some of them were censored in 1945.

I really enjoyed this youth novel. It even surprised me and made me dream. It made me want to work in this kind of warehouse! Moreover, I can see myself a little in this teenager Elizabeth who is clumsy, not very clever but funny and courageous. If you like this universe of tales, I recommend it to you, you will not be disappointed. Moreover, at the end of the book, we have the right to other surprises because we can read some little tales of Grimm and there are some that I did not know.

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