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The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls



Deeply creepy, thought-provoking tale of weird school.

What parents need to know

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

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.

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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.

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.

Kids say

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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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Claire Legrand
Illustrator:Sarah Watts
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Bugs, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs, Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Publication date:August 28, 2012
Number of pages:352
Publisher's recommended age(s):10 - 17
Available on:Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

This review of The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls was written by

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Educator and Parent Written byMy Story Board September 16, 2012

Cavendish Home: Nice to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there! :-)

Cavendish is appealing to my middle school students because its genre isn't often directed at them: horror. Students love the shock value for what it is; they are certain this is fiction and not a real threat to anyone outside of the book. The excellent imagery and sentence strructure is a gift to young readers.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
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 story had potential, but it was too gruesome to finish. The tone was frank horror, not suspense or adventure. My daughter likes to see things through, but she was ultimately so disturbed that I talked her into letting me just read the rest and tell her how it ended. I wouldn't recommend it unless the reader is looking for Stephen King-level horror.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Parent 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 weird servant creatures that you find out are other children and the kids in the home eat out their eyeballs. Why? Its just gross.