The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls Book Poster Image
Deeply creepy, thought-provoking tale of weird school.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn about Lawrence's favorite classical music, especially a Rachmaninoff concerto, which turns out to be essential to Victoria's rescue efforts.

Positive Messages

Amid the scary stuff are quite a few positive lessons: friendship, courage, teamwork, and why it's important to be yourself even if you're not perfect.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Victoria is brave, determined, and loyal to Lawrence, who in turn puts up with a lot of grief from her as she tries to improve him. When it counts, they're there for each other. There are also a few brave souls who stand up against the evil Mrs. Cavendish and are never seen again, as well as a cranky neighbor who's one of the rare people who haven't fallen under her spell.


This is a horror story, in which Victoria, Lawrence, and others are in constant fear of torture and death -- fear that's well justified by the "punishments" meted out to students (beatings, torture), a scene in which a horde of bugs carries off a screaming adult to an unknown but clearly horrible fate, and the complete disappearance of others.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Various foods, brews, and potions around the Home seem to have strange, sinister effects, including mindless compliance and indifference to others' suffering.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is funny, compelling, and seriously, deeply creepy. There's a spooky boarding school where, besides teachers who beat and torture the imprisoned students, there are strange creatures, peculiar food, and sinister goings-on. To say nothing of lots and lots of malevolent bugs. But kids who like scary books will go for this tale and its snarky 12-year-old heroine, Victoria, whose self-image as Ms. Perfect evolves over the course of her efforts to save her friend from the school.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 6 and 10-year-old Written byMAH August 1, 2014


We started reading this aloud with our 10 year old, expecting a creepy but kid-targeted orphanage tale. The characters were interesting, and the outlines of the... Continue reading
Adult Written bymamabear1234 May 15, 2013

Don't bother

Just a creepy book, I kept expecting it to get better, but the weirdness and horror factor is not appropriate for the age range its targeted at. There are these... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old June 19, 2018

Thrilling, suspenseful horror story best for mature tweens

This is a horror story, so you can expect lots of violence, but nothing inappropriate besides that. A very mature 10+ could handle it, but it's pretty cree... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byCharlo.001 October 26, 2017

Amazingly Thrilling

I truly loved this book, it has an amazing plot twist that will give you thrills. It is a great book for kids who like a darker sort of book. I recommend this f... Continue reading

What's the story?

Everything is perfect in the town of Belleville, and no one's more perfect than 12-year-old Victoria Wright, the perennial top student in her class. Then Victoria starts to notice that there's something a little strange about the fixed smiles and altered behavior of people all over town. It seems to be connected to a mysterious school, THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, into which all the kids who are less than perfect are vanishing. When her best friend/ongoing project Lawrence, a dreamy, sloppy music lover, vanishes, Victoria makes it her business to find him and bring him back. In the process of dealing with many sinister forces and scary, world-shaking events, including abandonment by her parents, the girl who's gotten by on sheer brains and attitude finds hidden resources in herself, other kids, and maybe the Home itself.

Is it any good?

First-time novelist Claire Legrand is an excellent, imaginative writer, and here she offers readers appealing characters, building suspense, and growing paranoia. The spooky vibe is helped along by Sarah Watts' Gothic black-and-white illustrations, which are both sinister and comical. There's also the frequent bit of food for thought, as when Victoria is suddenly struck by the similarity of her efforts to remake Lawrence and Mrs. Cavendish's transforming kids into smiling robots.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the appeal of horror books and movies. Do you think it's fun to be scared? Why or why not?

  • Do you think it's better to be perfect and always do what's expected of you, or be yourself even if it's not popular? Why? Does the book make you see this differently?

  • What would you hate the most if you were sent to the Cavendish Home?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love spooky stories

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