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The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls

Illustrated by Sarah Watts



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About The Book

At the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, you will definitely learn your lesson. A dark, timeless, and heartfelt novel for fans of Coraline and The Mysterious Benedict Society.

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 The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls 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.


Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls

WHEN VICTORIA WRIGHT WAS TWELVE YEARS OLD, she had precisely one friend. In fact, he was the only friend she had ever had. His name was Lawrence Prewitt, and on Tuesday, October 11, of the year Victoria and Lawrence were twelve years old, Lawrence disappeared.

Victoria and Lawrence became friends shortly after Lawrence’s first gray hairs appeared. They were both nine years old and in fourth grade. Thick and shining, Lawrence’s gray hairs sprouted out from between his black, normal hairs and made him look like a skunk. Everyone made fun of Lawrence for this, and really, Victoria couldn’t blame them. Victoria decided that these hairs were a cosmic punishment for Lawrence’s inability to tuck in his shirt properly, use a comb, pay attention in class (he preferred to doodle instead of take notes), and do anything but play his wretched piano. Not that Lawrence was bad at piano; in fact, he was very good. But Victoria had always thought it an incredible waste of time.

After a few weeks of watching Lawrence’s gray hairs sprout thicker and thicker, and hearing everyone’s snickers, Victoria put aside her general dislike of socializing with, well, anyone, and decided that Lawrence would be her personal project. Obviously, the boy needed help, and Victoria prided herself on telling people what to do with themselves. Sacrificing her valuable time to fix Lawrence would be a gift to the community of Belleville. “How charitable of you, Victoria,” people would say, and beam at her and wish their children could be like her.

So, at lunch one day, Victoria marched from her lonely table to Lawrence’s lonely table and said, “Hello, Lawrence. I’m Victoria. We’re going to be friends now.”

Victoria almost shook Lawrence’s hand but then thought better of it because she feared he might very well be infested with lice or something. Instead, she sat down and opened her milk carton, and when Lawrence looked at her through his skunkish hair and said, “I don’t really want to be your friend,” Victoria said, “Well, that’s too bad for you.”

Over the years, Victoria pushed herself into Lawrence’s life and was pushed out of it when he decided that enough was enough, and then pushed herself back in, and finally they were really, truly friends, in an odd sort of way.

Every weekday morning, they met at the crossing of Silldie Place (Victoria’s street) and Bourdon’s Landing (Lawrence’s street) and walked together to school. Most mornings, their conversation went something like this:

“Honestly, Lawrence,” Victoria would say, leading him briskly down the cobbled walk, for Victoria never walked anywhere without extreme purpose, “can’t you tuck in your shirt?”

Sometimes it would be, “Can’t you comb your hair?” or “How do you manage to get past your parents with those ugly shoes?” or “Did you finish your essay on the Byzantine Empire for extra credit like you were supposed to, or did you spend the entire weekend playing that silly piano?”

And Lawrence would roll his eyes or cuff her on the shoulder and say, “Good morning to you, too, Vicky,” which Victoria hated. She abhorred nicknames, especially that one. She also abhorred how Lawrence was always chewing on something, like a toothpick or pen or whatever nasty things he pulled from his pockets.

Nobody liked Lawrence, because he never really bothered to make friends. He lived in a dreamer’s world of ivory keys and messy shirts, unconcerned with the people around him. Those gray hairs of his didn’t help matters. He didn’t seem to mind what anyone thought of him, though. He didn’t seem to mind about much at all except for his piano—and Victoria. For Victoria’s twelfth birthday, Lawrence had written her a long letter and read it aloud right in front of her. It was full of jokes and funny stories, at which Victoria tried not to laugh too loudly, and that was all well and good, till the end happened.

About The Author

Photo credit Ellen B. Wright

Claire Legrand used to be a musician until she realized she couldn’t stop thinking about the stories in her head. Now Ms. Legrand is a full-time writer living in New Jersey. She has written two middle grade novels—The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, one of the New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing in 2012, and The Year of Shadows—as well as the young adult novel Winterspell. Visit her at and on Twitter @ClaireLegrand.

About The Illustrator

Sarah Watts is an illustrator of fabric lines, books, and other printed delights. She is married to an adventure junkie and she collects old treasures. Sarah is also the Alumni Board of Trustee member for Ringling College of Art and Design (RACD).

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (August 28, 2012)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781442442917
  • Grades: 5 and up
  • Ages: 10 - 99
  • Lexile ® 750L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is weirdly charming and creepy. I loved the intrepid girl hero Victoria and her determination to save her best friend from the scariest Home ever. An enormously fun--and shivery--read.

– Sarah Prineas, author of The Magic Thief series

A heartwarming friendship tale—played out amid carpets of chittering insects, torture both corporal and psychological, the odd bit of cannibalism and like ghoulish delights.
Being practically perfect in every way and someone who “never walked anywhere without extreme purpose,” 12-year-old Victoria resolutely sets about investigating the sudden disappearance of her scruffy classmate and longtime rehabilitation project Lawrence. After troubling encounters with several abruptly strange and wolfish adults in town, including her own parents, she finds herself borne into the titular Home by a swarm of 10-legged roachlike creatures. This abduction quickly leads to the discovery that it’s not an orphanage but a reform school. There, for generations, local children have had qualities deemed undesirable beaten or frightened out of them by sweet-looking, viciously psychotic magician/headmistress/monster bug Mrs. Cavendish. Victoria is challenged by a full array of terror-tale tropes, from disoriented feelings that things are “not quite right” and “[s]harp, invisible sensations, like reaching fingers” to dark passageways lined with rustling roaches and breakfast casseroles with chunks of…meat.
A thoroughgoing ickfest, elevated by vulnerable but resilient young characters and capped by a righteously ominous closing twist. (Horror fantasy. 11-13)

– Kirkus, starred review

" The too-serene-to-be-true town of Belleville harbors some creepy secrets in Legrand's debut, a sinister and occasionally playful tale of suspense. Twelve-year-old perfectionist Victoria Wright has bouncy curls, a fixation on achieving straight As, and just one friend—unkempt, artistic Lawrence, who she considers her "personal project." But when Lawrence disappears, and Victoria launches an investigation to find him, she discovers more frightening trouble than she imagined. Victoria unravels the mystery behind the titular home for children, which is run by the ageless Mrs. Cavendish and a fiendish gardener/assistant. Hair-raising adventures involving slimy hidden passageways, pinching swarms of cockroaches, mystery meat, and the wrath of cruel Mrs. Cavendish fill the pages. Legrand gives Victoria's mission a prickly energy, and her descriptions of the sighing, heaving home—a character in itself—are the stuff of bad dreams. Watts's b&w illustrations of spindly characters, cryptic shadows, and cramped corridors amplify the unsettling ambiance, and her roach motif may have readers checking their arms. Ages 10–up."

– Publisher's Weekly

"Insidiously creepy, searingly sinister, and spine-tinglingly fun, this book also presents a powerful message about friendship and the value of individuality."

– Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal

Awards and Honors

  • NYPL 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award Master List (VT)
  • MSTA Reading Circle List
  • Mitten Award Honor Book (MI)

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More books from this author: Claire Legrand