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The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls Hardcover – August 28, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 5-8-A paradigm of perfection-with straight As, gleaming blond curls, and an unshakable sense of purpose-12-year-old Victoria expects everything and everyone to be just so. Friends are particularly messy, so she has opted to have only one. Lawrence is a disheveled, music-loving dreamer whom she views as a "personal project" in need of fixing. When Lawrence goes missing, Victoria investigates and soon unearths dreadful secrets lurking beneath the surface of her picture-perfect community. The adults are behaving oddly, numerous children have disappeared, and nasty creepy-crawlies are popping up everywhere. Victoria's sleuthing leads her to the local orphanage and into the flawlessly manicured grasps of Mrs. Cavendish, the malevolent, magic-using headmistress who snatches less-than-perfect children from their homes and reforms them through a nightmare-inducing regime of physical and psychological punishments. Once Victoria uncovers the awful truth, she must face her own greatest fears-and also learn to reach out to others-to save the day. Beginning with the uneasy realization that things are not quite right, gradually incorporating disquieting discoveries, and escalating into full-out horror (the children are fed chopped-up body-part casseroles), the suspense and sense of dread build to the satisfying (and also unsettling) conclusion. Shadow-filled black-and-white illustrations and the occasional bug scampering across the text intensify the eeriness. Insidiously creepy, searingly sinister, and spine-tinglingly fun, this book also presents a powerful message about friendship and the value of individuality.-Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journalα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

The town of Belleville likes things to be perfect, and no one is more in agreement than 12-year-old Victoria: perfect student, perfect daughter. She takes on a fellow classmate—the imperfect Lawrence—as a project, but he’s also her only friend, so when he disappears, the determined Victoria sets out to find him. She knows where to look, too: the home for orphan boys and girls run by the seemingly sweet but truly diabolical Mrs. Cavendish. First-time author Legrand sets everything up beautifully, but once Victoria gets scooped up by Mrs. Cavendish, the story descends into something more ugly than scary, especially when Victoria is thrown into the “hanger” to be assaulted with disgusting bugs and sad visions. Nor do the reasons for Mrs. Cavendish’s actions ever make much sense. Even sadists usually have a story they tell to justify themselves. Still, this has many of the elements that endeared readers to books like Roald Dahl’s Matilda (1988) and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events titles. It’s also a handsome piece of bookmaking, with the art adding much to the package. Grades 4-7. --Ilene Cooper
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 750L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (August 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1442442913
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442442917
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #985,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Claire Legrand used to be a musician until she realized she couldn't stop thinking about the stories in her head. Now a writer, Ms. Legrand can often be found typing with purpose at her keyboard, losing herself in the stacks at her local library, or embarking upon spontaneous adventures to lands unknown. Her first novel is THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, a New York Public Library Best Book for Children in 2012. Her second novel, THE YEAR OF SHADOWS, is out now, also from Simon & Schuster, with her third novel, WINTERSPELL, to follow in fall 2014. She is one of the four authors behind THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, an anthology of dark middle grade fiction due out May 27, 2014 from Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins. Claire lives in New Jersey with a dragon and two cats. Visit her at claire-legrand.com and at enterthecabinet.com.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By K. Blaine VINE VOICE on October 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls" is aimed at the 10 to 14 age group, but my guess is that older teens and even adults may enjoy it as well, though not for the same reasons. First, the target audience. This is a horror fantasy, plain and simple. A children's home staffed by monsters masquerading as kindly caregivers, a house that changes shape and comes to life, children trapped with no hope for escape--all of these elements are well integrated in this excellent book. I will not review the plot, as other reviewers have done so quite well, but I think most tweens will be hooked by the strange Harry Potter-esque events that occur within the house, as well as by the efforts of the heroine to save the day.

Now the older readers. When I began this book, I immediately thought it was a sort of Stepford Wives for kids. Children, especially strange or odd children, or those who are for any reason outside the norm, are kidnapped, or disappear, only to (sometimes) turn up weeks or months later, transformed. They suddenly fit in; their odd individuality has been excised. As I read on, however, I began to think of this book as a cautionary tale against conformity, perfectionism, and intolerance. For me, the most insightful lines in the book occur when Miss Cavendish, the villain, says to Victoria, the heroine, "You and I are just alike." And the truth is, they are. As Victoria experiences the house in all its horrors, she realizes her own tendencies toward judgmental condemnation of others and love of doing things "just so," attitudes that can lead, in adulthood, to intolerance and bigotry. In addition, Miss Cavendish cannot enact her villainy without the consent and collusion of nearly all the townspeople.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Brittany Moore VINE VOICE on October 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
One day Victoria's friend Lawrence goes missing. This does not fit in with her perfect plans to make him a bit less...rough around the edges. She also is sort of concerned for his well-being. His parents tell Victoria that he's visiting his sick grandmother, but something about this excuse seems a bit off. Maybe it's Lawrence's parents that seem off. Victoria decides it's up to her to investigate what has happened to Lawrence and the other kids who seem to be disappearing. Victoria has a sinking feeling that it all might have to do with the Cavendish Home. She's not sure what goes on there, so she'll have to investigate and what she finds will surprise her.

This was such a fun story. Plenty of mystery and intrigue and general creepiness. I loved the little bugs that were scattered throughout the story and the few illustrations made this story even more of a delight. Victoria was the kind of girl who needed everything to be perfect. She started hanging around Lawrence for the very reason of making him perfect. He was always quite disheveled with his head in music. Somehow though, Victoria managed to tolerate Lawrence and it seems she even grew fond of him.

Much of this book we are only with Victoria. Lawrence disappears quite early on, so we are tangled up in Victoria's rumination. She seems quite smart and able at this point. She's like a regular Nancy Drew, sleuthing around town. It helps that the grown-ups aren't their usual selves. There are a lot of great characters in this novel, some we only meet briefly but all of them play their parts and play them well.

The Cavendish Home is incredible. Every part of it left me feeling a bit creeped out. I really enjoyed it though, and could picture it vividly in my mind.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By KidsReads on September 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Twelve-year-old Victoria Wright really lives up to her last name. She is tidy, clean and very nearly perfect. She only has one friend, but that's okay, because that one friend, Lawrence, is really a project. Poor Lawrence can never seem to have his shirt tucked in, and he does horrible things like hum when he's happy. Victoria has taken it upon herself to teach him to be more like her.

Victoria lives in Belleville, which suits her, because it's generally lovely, clean and tidy, as is her school, the Academy. In fact, the only thing that makes Belleville less than perfect is the Cavendish Home, and even Victoria knows that it would be rude to complain too much about that. Mrs. Cavendish takes in troubled children who have nowhere else to go and helps them become better boys and girls. With an objective like that, Victoria has to respect her.

But all of that changes when Lawrence disappears. Victoria stops at his house in the morning so that they can walk to school together, as always, but his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Prewitt, inform her that Lawrence is visiting his grandmother. That wouldn't be so strange, except that it's a school day. And Victoria notices that the Prewitts have blank-looking expressions. All the time.

Victoria would be willing to let it go, except that things get stranger and stranger, and more and more adults seem to be taken over by this strange blankness that makes them avoid her questions. Somehow, Victoria knows that Mrs. Cavendish must be involved, but when she goes to the Home and asks even more questions, things get even stranger and scarier.

THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS is, simply put, awesome. A little scary, a little eerie, a little funny, a little sweet, it's a spectacular debut novel.
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