Review: The Cabinet of Curiosities by Stefan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull, Claire Legrand & Emma Trevayne

I received this book for free from YA Books Central in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Cabinet of Curiosities by Stefan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull, Claire Legrand & Emma TrevayneThe Cabinet of Curiosities: 36 Tales Brief & Sinister by Claire Legrand, Emma Trevayne, Katherine Catmull, Stefan Bachmann
Published by Greenwillow on May 27, 2014
Genres: Anthologies, Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Horror, Humor, Short Stories
Pages: 496
Format: Hardcover
Source: YA Books Central
AmazonThe Book Depository

A collection of forty eerie, mysterious, intriguing, and very short short stories presented by the cabinet's esteemed curators, otherwise known as acclaimed authors Stefan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull, Claire LeGrand, and Emma Trevayne. Perfect for fans of Alvin Schwartz and anyone who relishes a good creepy read-alone or read-aloud story. Features an introduction and commentary by the curators, and illustrations and decorations throughout.

Middle grade hasn’t really been my thing lately, but I recommend this anthology SO highly. For one thing, it’s absolutely gorgeous: the cover, the illustrations, the formatting. It’s just perfection. Even better, the stories within it are wonderful too. Usually in an anthology, I like a couple really well and some are okay and a whole bunch are duds. In this case, there are only a couple that I was meh on and none that I disliked. Though I do think I generally liked Legrand’s stories the best, I am impressed with all four authors and none of them stands out as less talented. There was no author where I would sigh every time I got to their stories. All four authors are immensely talented. The writing is gorgeous across the board and the scenarios imaginative. Their sense of humor shines as well, in the notes from one curator to another.

The Cake Stories

“Fairy Cakes” by Emma Trevayne: So you know in A Bug’s Life how they come, they eat, they leave? It’s basically the same principle here. In this town, once a year, they bake cakes for the fairies (with honey!). The townspeople are terrified of the monstrous little fairies, and, well, they have their reasons. A dark, beautifully written opening to the collection. 4/5

“The Cake Made Out of Teeth” by Claire Legrand: The story opens, “Henry Higginbotham was generally considered to be the worst child in the world, but even then, it’s hard to say if he deserved what happened to him.” This recalls C.S. Lewis something fierce, and I like to think that’s intentional. The actual story is more along the lines of the Dursleys, and it’s quite fun, as expected from Claire Legrand. 4/5

“The Other House” by Stefan Bachmann: Rather an odd story. There’s a Gaiman-esque quality to this one. There’s a house in the basement of his house. The other house, the one in the basement, is small and has spider legs. The boy is determined to find out more. Though less overtly terrifying, this one actually creeped me out in a way the other two did not. 3.5/5

“The Wolf Inside” by Katherine Catmull: Veeeery creepy. But also oddly inspirational? My feels, they are so puzzled. Sort of a Jungle Book kind of story. Oh, also, not a cake story. There are stories that I guess didn’t fit plopped at the end of sections. There is food in this one, so close enough.  3.5/5

The Love Stories

“Motherhood” by Stefan Bachmann: Let’s just say I was expecting this to be my least favorite story. Well, it is, so far, but it’s suitably eerie and clever to fit in. This is one of those tales that’s entirely dependent on the very end. Also, requisite shudder for babies. 3/5

“The Graveyard of Hearts” by Emma Trevayne: Let’s see, it’s sort of like Buffy with the temptation of putting on mysterious, possibly magical jewelry meets The Graveyard Book. I’m seriously impressed with the darkness of these children’s stories. 3/5

“Dark Valentine” by Katherine Catmull: Well, that was massively depressing. The point of view was also very strange. A local adult reflecting on the love between kids? Not really sure what to make of this one. 2.5/5

“Red Shoes and Doll Parts” by Claire Legrand: Okay, for serious, Blythe (Finding Bliss in Books) needs this book because holy shit I have rarely been so terrified by fiction. Claire Legrand, what are you doing to me? Trigger warning: puppet. 3/5

“Footprints” by Emma Trevayne: Mysterious tiny footprints keep appearing in the snow outside of this house. Based on how this collection has gone, it can only end well. I liked it, but it stayed a bit too vague for my tastes.3/5

The Luck Stories

“The Tin Man’s Price” by Claire Legrand: Legrand has a serious gift for horror, because every single one of her stories has been intensely upsetting. Two kids find a mysterious toy in their attic and it tells them to do bad things in exchange for luck. 4/5

“Johnny Knockers” by Stefan Bachmann: Super painful for my heart story about whalers who find a boy in the stomach of a whale. They have super good whaling luck when he comes aboard, but he refuses to speak. POOR WHALES. 3.5/5

“The Circus” by Emma Trevayne: This story is about a lucky boy, but also about things that bring bad luck. Apparently whistling at a circus is a bad omen, just like saying the name Macbeth in a theater. 3/5

“Lucky, Lucky Girl” by Katherine Catmull: Simran has good luck, the best luck. Whatever Simran wants, Simran gets…at the expense of others. There is nothing creepier than creepy children, I swear to kanye. 4/5

“Just a Little Graveyard Game” by Claire Legrand: The price of popularity is too high in “Just a Little Graveyard Game. The horror aspects aren’t my favorite here, but I liked the story. 3/5

The Stories about Tricks

“Transcript: Information Provided by an Eleven-Year-Old Male, Two Weeks After the Incident” by Katherine Catmull: I feel like the moral of this one would be “And this is why you don’t teach lessons.” Only, you know, if someone was actually really hurt. 3.5/5

“Quicksilver and the Stranger” by Claire Legrand: Whoa, after all this time a tale that isn’t horror! Instead, it’s a pretty cool conceptual story about a girl with silver hair like a crone’s. 3/5

“Plum Boy and the Dead Man” by Stefan Bachmann: Plum Boy commits one of the classic blunders. Also, you should never talk to corpses. How can that end well? 3.5/5

“Generously Donated By” by Emma Trevayne: Puck is in this story! Shakespeare’s Puck! And he’s causing mayhem as he is wont to do. Immediately awesome. Lighter than most of the collection, I do enjoy the classic moral taught to the heroine. Young children should not begrudge trips to the museum. Got that? 3.5/5

“The Hive” by Stefan Bachmann: Bachmann does something akin to The Time Machine. This guy’s telling us about the future he saw and let’s just say it’s not happy. 4/5

The Stories about Flowers

“The Iron Rose” by Katherine Catmull: Duuuude, this may not be in the fairy tale section, but it’s totally fairy tale-ish. Which of course means I love it. Also, very sad. A be careful what you wish for sort of story. 4/5

“The Garden Full of Bad Things” by Claire Legrand: Gah, this story is so freaking cool. So there’s an appearance from a classic literary character who comes to help out this poor little dog who’s trying to defend people from the man-eating flowers in the garden. 4/5

“Mabel Mavelia” by Stefan Bachmann: Middle grade retelling of The Yellow Wallpaper. Are you impressed yet? 3.5/5

“Mirror, Mirror” by Claire Legrand: A twelve-year-old girl gets a magic mirror while antiquing with her mom. She writes in her diary all about it. At first, it makes her feel good, but then, well, you’ll see. This one’s extra terrifying if read aloud, and the narrative voice was very effective. 4.5/5

The Travel Stories

“The Trouble with the Ghoul” by Stefan Bachmann: At the risk of sounding like a failure of an adult and a reader, this one went over my head. 2.5/5

“Clickety-Clack” by Emma Trevayne: A child travels on a train full of skeletons having a party. I sort of picture it like The Corpse Bride. Very Tim Burton anyway. I didn’t really get the point of this one either, though. 2.5/5

“Red Raging Son” by Katherine Catmull: A family takes a vacation to somewhere very hot and unpleasant. Also, the travel stories are apparently not my favorite ones. 2.5/5

“Tale of Two Towns” by Stefan Bachmann: The children of two competing towns decide they’ve had enough. The solution? Obviously to roll all of the adults off of a cliff. Oh, these stories. 3.5/5

The Stories about Songs

“Rhapsody in Doom” by Claire Legrand: In this town, music is magical. Children are disappearing, taken for their magic. The ending was super cute and this one’s not actually all that scary. 3/5

“Wayward Sons and Windblown Daughters” by Stefan Bachmann: A father ignores his daughter’s pleas to be removed from her boarding school. What became of them? It’s a mystery. 3/5

“Spidersong” by Emma Trevayne: Were you really expecting anything besides hungry spiders living in a forest at this point and hunting for tasty children? Cannot resist picturing them as Aragog’s family. 3.5/5

“The Talent of the Howl” by Katherine Catmull: Like some of the other stories in the collection, this one’s really thought-provoking. They take ordinary things and consider the possible magic in them. Very delightful and eye-opening. 3.5/5

“The Book of Bones” by Emma Trevayne: Oooh, this one’s a bit different from the rest and I like the change of pace. A town is beset by ghosts due to a magician stealing bones from graves. The resolution was dark but satisfying. 4/5

The Fairy Tales

“The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces” by Katherine Catmull: Catmull’s retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses doesn’t really add anything to the tale, which I’ve already read several retellings of, but it has a nice feminist message. 3/5

“The Sandman Cometh” by Claire Legrand: A retelling of Old Lukoje by Hans Christian Andersen in which a child wishes his family away only to have that wish granted. To get them back, he’s going to have to perform services for the Sandman. 4/5

“Jack Shadow” by Emma Trevayne: Another Hans Christian Andersen retelling, this time of The Shadow. It takes something as mundane as your own shadow and makes you reevaluate whether it might, you know, kill you. 3.5/5

“The Storyteller’s Shadows” by Katherine Catmull: Important lesson: always pay people who have performed a service for you. 3/5

A definite must for horror fans young and old. The Cabinet’s Curators take you on adventures dark and magical.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif you're different i like it

5 responses to “Review: The Cabinet of Curiosities by Stefan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull, Claire Legrand & Emma Trevayne”




    Blythe Harris recently posted…ALL FOUR STARS blog tour: interview + giveawayMy Profile

  2. Lyn Kaye says:

    Legrand is an automatic “buy me” author, so I might have to break down and get this one. I just can’t resist it any longer.
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Book Review: InlandMy Profile

  3. *waits for a tl;dr book review in a giffy* *keeps waiting*


    But I think you’ve convinced me to buy this, though I’m still not convinced anthologies are something for me.
    Debby (Snuggly Oranges) recently posted…Top Ten Books On My Summer 2014 TBR ListMy Profile

  4. It sounds lovely! My sons are grown but I will definitely find a niece or nephew to share it with!
    Claudia Brevis recently posted…Flash Fiction Monday: Boxed InMy Profile

  5. Most of the times I don’t read anthologies, but I got a little sneak peek from Harper and I was immediately interested. You have persuaded me that I need to buy a copy 🙂
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Fairytale News 39. Spoilers (2).My Profile

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