Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand

Not the Cavendish Home, but probably close!

I chose The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls as one of my free books from's Vine program, because I was excited to have a new book to read and possibly recommend through the blog! 

The book is set in perfect Belleville, home of both the Impetus Academy, where our heroine Victoria, and her only friend, Lawrence, go to school, and the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, a rather secretive orphanage near Victoria's house. 

Victoria is 12, and perfect. Well, almost. The book opens with her getting her first B, ever, and plotting how she might be able to get it changed before her parents find out - more because of her attitude than her parents', from what we can tell. She feels panicked and shamed, which rang a bell with me, as I have a fairly perfectionist kid myself, who puts way more pressure on himself than I would ever dream of. Victoria craves perfection, both for herself and her best friend, but that desire certainly comes with a price - as she will come to learn. Lawrence, her friend, is untidy. A mess, really. This irritates her beyond reason - she may not even feel "friendship" for him so much as she sees him as a project to be fixed, until he disappears. She begins to realize that not all is right in her perfect little town. She starts to remember some other kids, in fuzzy memories, who seem to have gone away, and no one else acknowledges their existence. The teacher who gave her the B also seems to sense something amiss, and then in a very creepy episode, he, too, vanishes.

Victoria's trusty maid seems worried about her, and in her desire to find Lawrence - his parents act like nothing is wrong - she starts to research the Cavendish Home. The old, old newspapers seem to show the same Miss Cavendish as there is now, but that was 100 years ago... No one ever sees the kids who live there, which does, after all, seem odd. Victoria goes to see Miss Cavendish and gets a cryptic message from some of the kids she sees - "Help Us!"


My first thought was that this is "The Stepford Wives" for kids who wouldn't know what that means. Fit in, or else... And Victoria is, with her search, NOT fitting in...

The author does a great job with this book. The writing is crisp and clean, the plot (mostly) original and fast-moving, the characters as real as fantasy characters can be. There are several rather lovely pen-and-ink drawings as illustrations spread throughout the book, as well.

I will freely admit that "creepy" is not my favorite tween genre, but it was very, very well done. I know I'm kind of in the minority there - many of of the 25 classroom teachers in the school I work in will read aloud a Mary Downing Hahn or Peg Kehret book to their classes at least once a year, if not more often. The kids seem to like them fine, (though as a kid, I hated anything scary, but then, I wouldn't have said anything to my teachers, either) and I did find this author to do as well as, or better than, those other authors I mentioned as far as the quality of the writing and the originality of the plot. If you like creepy stories, this one is a great choice!

Rating: PG - no language, romance, blood, etc., but just scary enough to be PG rather than G. The vocab is appropriate for late 4th to 7th grade readers.