The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand
Victoria has always tried to be the best that she can be with her perfect hair, great grades and neat room. So when she gets a B in music, she is distraught and refuses to show her parents her report card. Lawrence, her one and only friend, doesn’t have the same appreciation for perfection. He’s a musician who is often untidy and has a habit of humming constantly. As Victoria obsesses about her grades, she starts to notice that strange things are happening around town. Some of the students at her school have disappeared and no one seems to care. When Lawrence disappears and his parents are unconcerned, Victoria realizes that there is something horribly wrong. She knows it must have to do with the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, an orphanage which never seems to have any children around. In Mrs. Cavendish, Victoria finds another person with a will for order and perfection. In Victoria though, Mrs. Cavendish may have met her match. As this book turns from mystery to horror, readers will taken on a frightening ride.
From the endpaper that is designed with bugs to the bugs scattered along randomly inside the book, readers will realize that this is a little darker than most mysteries. It begins as a classic story of a girl who is top of her class and fairly self-centered. She is likeable despite these faults thanks to her natural inquisitiveness and bravery. As the book becomes more dark and creepy, Victoria rises to the challenge, turning into a heroine before your eyes. It’s a credible and impressive transformation.
Legrand slowly builds the tension in the book, creating a story that you can never quite relax into. A great example of this is on page 83:
Outside, the streets glistened. Storm clouds sat fat, black, and heavy all along the sickly yellow sky. Victoria wondered if they would ever break or if they would just keep spitting bits of rain forever when no one was looking. She tightened her grip on the umbrella beneath her raincoat and tried not to think about how it felt like the trees were watching her.
It’s a book that twists and turns, becoming the unexpected. At several moments, I thought I had figured it out and the doubted that that would be the outcome in a children’s book. Children will delight though in realizing that Legrand does not shy away from the horrid, the frightening and the disgusting.
This is a wild ride of a book clothed in a classic mystery disguise. Get it into the hands of children who enjoy a good shivery read. It’s perfect for reading at night under the covers, if you are brave enough. Appropriate for ages 11-13.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.