The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls: review

November 16, 2012 4 star books, claire legrand, horror, middle grade 51

Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls Claire Legrand

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls
by Claire LeGrand

Are you in the mood to spooked? Here is a delightfully dreadful tale will give you the creepy-crawlies.

12-year-old Victoria’s best friend Lawrence has gone missing. Not only is she confused and lonely after his disappearance, but no one in town seems to remember who he was. Prickly, persnickety Victoria is determined to find out what happened to him, and gradually her questions lead her straight to the tall, gray-brick Home at the end of her street where the bright-eyed Mrs. Cavendish lives.

Written in brisk prose reminiscent of Roald Dahl’s, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls showcases a gratifyingly smart debut by author Claire Legrand. The clever writing assumes that its readers are intelligent thinkers, with vibrant verbs and grim humor marching the story purposefully along with its spirited heroine and her quest.

cavendish home for boys and girls claire legrandThere is much wickedness afoot in this story, with the dastardly deeds ranging from abusive behavior to murder to…eating things that one really oughtn’t. (Truly, I will never look at butterscotch candy the same way again.) One of the things that makes it especially deliciously creepy is that Victoria partakes in some of these activities without even knowing it, so the gradual realization of what’s really going on in this dark carnival house is a shudder-inducing experience.

I loved the scenes in which Victoria is overcome by nightmarish swarms of insects and when the dark walls move and breathe and when she realizes exactly what the beautiful but ghoulish Mrs. Cavendish has been up to. There were moments in the ending chapters that were absolutely magnificent in their gleeful fiendishness, and they made me do happy creepy dances in my seat. This is a story that may not appeal to those with more delicate sensibilities and probably isn’t suitable for very young children, but Legrand’s deft hand certainly makes it palatable for middle grade readers.

I think some of the scenes would have had more impact if they’d been lengthened, however, as the horror is so brilliant that holding that tension just a bit longer would have allowed us to relish them more. Conversely, the build-up of the mystery also felt a little long for my personal taste. I would also like to have seen some deeper emotion, as the story skims on some sadness and fear, but doesn’t quite leave the sort of lingering feeling that a reader like me yearns for. I still loved reading the story, however, and I’m very much looking forward to the author’s future work.

If you’re in need of handsome presents this holiday season, by the way, this hardcover fits the bill in more ways than one! The book itself is absolutely beautiful, with a textured book jacket, lovely end papers, and wonderful illustrations by Sarah Watts.

cavendish home for boys and girls claire legrand

cavendish home for boys and girls claire legrand

As you turn the pages, there are also surprises in the form of smudgy little cockroaches sprinkled here and there throughout the text. *shudder* The design is perfect for this book, and makes it an even more pleasurable reading experience.

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is an elegant nightmare that will appeal to imaginative children with a sense of humor, and to those of us who have longed for stories that aren’t afraid to scare us–but also puts a reassuring arm around us in the end. The next time you’re in the mood for a shivery read, Cavendish the perfect thing to curl up with on a blustery night.

Rated 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommended for: fans of Lemony Snicket, Roald Dahl, and Coraline. But expect a lot more creepiness!

This review also appears on GoodReads. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.

51 Responses to “The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls: review”

  1. elena

    I could have sworn I already commented on this post but I guess not. I adored this one and like you said, it’s so delightfully creepy. I absolutely love the design of it too, the cockroaches on the pages were genius! I can’t wait to see what Claire Legrand writes next. :D

  2. Rachel

    This sounds fantastically creepy, Wendy! I love surprises in books, like the little bugs and the illustrations look wonderful. What a great gift idea. Lovely review Wendy. :)

  3. readingdate

    This looks like a great gift for my nephew, though I’d also like to read it myself! You make it sound so whimsical and scary fun that I can’t help but want to pick it up. Thanks for highlighting this one!

  4. Christina

    Okay, I can’t read this review yet, because I’m hoping to read this SOMETIME soon, though, knowing me that’s questionable. :/ Anyway, this might terrify me. I have no tolerance for bugs at all. Cockroaches are THE WORST. Thankfully, my cat eats any non-miniscule bugs that dare to come into my house. He thinks they’re awesome.

    • Wendy Darling

      I HATE bugs too, Christina–I shriek like a little girl and I make my husband kill them. Which is weird, because I was a total tomboy as a child. So…hopefully you won’t have a problem either? The scenes are shudder-inducing, but I find the illustrations quit charming.

      Our cats suck at catching bugs. They bat at them half-heartedly, but they aren’t as committed to the killing as I feel they should be.

  5. Heidi

    Isn’t the hardcover for this beautiful? I suppose it’s odd to say that about something covered in bugs, but it’s just so well thought out and detailed, I absolutely adore it and am so glad I bought a physical copy. I love this review! You’ve captured Claire’s writing style perfectly. I loved how creepy this book was, and cannot wait for Legrand’s upcoming works.

    • Wendy Darling

      YES! I saw your 5 star rating, Heidi, and I can’t wait to read your review. I agree, the book design is so well done and it’s worth having a hardcover for sure.

      And thank you! I tired to do the book justice. Her next couple of projects sound amazing.

  6. K.

    Sorry, Wendy. Haven’t had internet for a few days but this book looks AWESOME…as in something I WOULD TOTALLY want to read!! :D

    • Wendy Darling

      Ah, it’s nice to see you here, stranger! :D

      But yes, I think this book and you would be very good friends indeed. Claire is a kindred spirit, I think.

  7. Lottie Eve

    From what I see in the photos you showed this book is GORGEOUS! Amazing review :) I really liked the illustrations scattered throughout the pages.

    • Wendy Darling

      Just have a look the next time you’re at the bookstore, Lottie–it’s very hard not to fall in love with the book and want to take it home!

  8. Kara_Malinczak

    It IS a beautiful book. I bought my copy at Books A Million when it came out. I, however, did NOT know where were cockroach illustrations on the pages. I have a serious phobia of those suckers. I do hope they aren’t all that realistic. Otherwise this book may creep me out more than most people!

    So glad you enjoyed it, Wendy. That bodes well for me.

    • Wendy Darling

      If you have an insect phobia (beyond the usual shrieking when you see them, like I do), I can see how this book might freak you out! How will you manage reading it?! I look forward to hearing how you fare, Miss Kara. :)

  9. Candace

    It looks like a gorgeous book! And the little illustrations sprinkled throughout is fantastic! I found myself enjoying these kinds of stories more and more. I read MG books to my kids at bedtime but this is one I am certain would scare them as they are just a bit too young. However, it may be one I would pick up as a gift for a nephew and sneak in a read first (though parting with it may be difficult). Absolutely gorgeous review!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh Candace! It is a scary book for little ones, I think, but middle-graders (and adults!) will love it. I’m a big fan of middle grade books done right, too. :)

  10. A Canadian Girl

    Oh, this one sounds absolutely delightful! The pictures of cockroaches however do not … especially because I’m phobic of insects and think anything small and black may be a bug.

    • Wendy Darling

      I think you might have a wee bit of trouble with this one then–I’m afraid cockroaches play a rather prominent role in this book. And not in a good way. (Is there ever a good way?) But perhaps one of her future books might be better suited for you!

  11. Wendy Darling

    Hah hah, what are you talking about? It’s only been a month or do since my last official review. :P

    This is definitely one where you should seek out the hardcover if possible, Lyn. The tactile pleasure of holding it is something not to be missed. :)

  12. Lyn Kaye

    I’m just ecstatic to see you post a review here again!
    I was planning on buying this book for the Kindle, but that was before I saw the wonderful artwork. I am doing a terrible job reading grade-level friendly books, and I do wish to add this to the stack.

    Awesome review!

  13. Sarah (saz101)

    “The clever writing assumes that its readers are intelligent thinkers”

    Oooooh, Wendy, I love that you compared this to Roald Dahl, and I love that you said THIS.

    I think we underestimate children. They ARE clever, and when faced with a truly engaging book, can imagine it and fall more deeply and innocently in love with it than many adults can.

    And… I thought this book sounded good before. But I didn’t really have any intention of reading it. But WENDY. IT SOUNDS AMAZING. AND YOU COMPARED IT CORALINE. And that’s what I was THINKING as you described it and and and ♥

    • Wendy Darling

      I cannot tell you how much I appreciate and agree with your comment, Saz. I read and re-read my favorite books to bits as a child, so I firmly believe it’s possible for kids to fall in love deeply with books, especially those that challenge them or show them things they’d never even dreamed of. We need more books like this! And YOU definitely need a copy for your shelves!

    • Wendy Darling

      Yay, I’m glad you’re going to read this, Heidi! I know you like creepy books too, do I bet this one is right up your alley. Enjoy!

  14. Rachel @ Unforgettable Books

    Hey Wendy! Love you continuous humor in this review! Love Roaold Dahl (though i used to pronounce his name as Ronald Doll when i talked about his books as kid, which was frequently)

    Anyways, really want to read this book!!!! Especially to see where the cockroaches fall in and find out the interesting food eaten. :) Definitely in the mood for this spooky, humorous book!
    Fantastic review!
    Thanks for introducing me to this story in a delightful way!

    • Wendy Darling

      When I was little, it took me awhile to figure out there was no “n” in his name, too. Now it drives me crazy if I see people misspelling it, hah.

      I had a good time with the book, Rachel, so I’m glad that came through in the review! Thanks for stopping by.

  15. Amy

    This sounds like such a fantastic book. I love all the little details throughout the pages. That’s so fun and it seems like it really adds to the story. I really have to get this book. Great review!

  16. Bookworm1858

    See, I was not ready to be spooked and thus this book did not really work for me. I loved Victoria wanting to put everything in order but the overall tone was not to my taste at the time.

    • Wendy Darling

      Ah, sometimes the mood you’re in definitely plays into it, Bookworm. And books like this (with very distinct styles or in certain genres) are always a matter of personal taste, too. I’m sorry this one didn’t really work for you. I’m very curious what the author’s next project will be like, since it sounds very different–maybe you’ll have better luck with that one!

  17. Bonnie R

    Those little cockroach pictures would totally creep me out! And… I love butterscotch candies. Now I’m worried. This still sounds fantastic though, definitely going to have to read this one! :)

  18. Stephanie Sinclair

    Excellent review, Wendy! I have this and I need to get to it. I absolutely adore Clare and she mentioned the cockroach scene to Kat, Archer and I. YIKES! I can’t wait to dig into it!

    • Wendy Darling

      I’m so glad you already have a copy, Steph! Claire is such a sweetheart online, so I was relieved that I liked her books so much. (You know how it is.)

      But yeah, those cockroaches will keep you up at night…

  19. Belle

    Looks gorgeous. I love it when books have little extras to make them that much more special. This seems like a great book to own.

    • Wendy Darling

      This one is SO beautiful, Belle–definitely worth seeking out the hard copy over the ebook in this case. I love it when thought is put into the design to make it complementary to the story, too!

  20. Keertana

    Gosh, this sounds AMAZING! I’ve seen it pop around everywhere and brushed it off as “just another” middle grade novel, but I think I’m going to LOVE this one! I defintiely have to get a copy soon – lovely review, Wendy! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I’m so picky about middle grade books, Keertana; I feel like it’s so much harder to get them right than YA, so I’m always pleased to find one that tickles my fancy.

      I have a feeling you and this book will be good friends too! Hurry up and read it so we can discuss, please. :)

  21. Sam

    Fantastic review, Wendy! I’m thrilled to hear this has an eerie side. I wasn’t expecting that at all when I first came across this book but it definitely makes me want to pick it up now. Also, that cover is just wonderful. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Ohh, it’s one of those wonderfully spooky books that children will love. I’m very curious if the UK version will look the same, Sam, so I’ll be on the lookout for when you start reading this.