Victoria hates nonsense. There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster—lazy and dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does, too.)
But then Lawrence goes missing. And he’s not the only one. Victoria soon discovers that Mrs. Cavendish’s children’s home is not what it appears to be. Kids go in but come out…different, or they don’t come out at all.
If anyone can sort this out, it’s Victoria, even if it means getting a little messy.
Victoria Wright is always right. She is the best at school, she is her parents’ pride and joy, and she faces challenges with imperturbable calm, because she knows she’ll get her way. In fact, the only blot in her ledger is her only friend, Lawrence. But Lawrence is more of a project than a friend – isn’t he? That’s what Victoria tells herself until one fateful day, when he goes missing. And Victoria must know what has happened to him. After all, he was her friend. What she finds is a deep, rotten mystery surrounding the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls. And something sinister has taken note of her search…
The hook in this tale is too-perfect Victoria. She rigid and a bit too intelligent, which makes her somewhat bizarre. Her reactions range from logical and funny to ridiculous. It’s a good combination for a middle grade book, and the result is a stylized story that reads like a classic. Beyond Victoria, what kept me reading was the clever and sinister way the story unfolded. I needed to know how it would end, if Lawrence would survive, and what it would take for Belleville to return to ‘normal.’ IF it could, even.
One lovely surprise in the book? The illustrations by Sarah Watts – done in black and white and meant not only to reel in the reluctant chapter book reader, but also add to the atmosphere. Watts’ art reminded me a bit of the illustrations in the Chronicles of Narnia books – just a bit of a scene to aid your imagination in picturing a slice of the fantastic or remind you that these characters are quite normal, thank you.
In all, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is a well-written and slightly gruesome adventure that will give you delightful shivers and possibly send you to the store for more bug spray. I found it immensely enjoyable, even thought I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to look at (much less eat!) a certain candy again. Claire Legrand has written the perfect Halloween tale for someone who isn’t sure they like creepy stories at all.
Recommended for: fans of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and classic children’s horror, anyone who may find themselves influenced by beautiful cover art and extremely confident girl heroines, and readers of all ages who like their stories a little bizarre, a lot dark, and all the way clever.