- The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls
With its pristine streets and manicured lawns, Belleville is quite the perfect little town, and twelve-year-old Victoria Wright, with her golden curls and outstanding academic report, is one of its most perfect residents. The idyll starts going sour, however, when Victoria's best friend Lawrence—a musical prodigy whose dreamy nature makes him an outcast in Belleville—goes missing, and the grownups seem to be retroactively erasing his existence altogether. Upset at the loss of her friend, Victoria goes looking for answers. Her nosiness lands her in the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, where she meets Mrs. Cavendish herself, a stunningly beautiful woman with a knack for whipping—sometimes literally—Belleville's "degenerate" children into shape. The combination of the Stepford-like town and the atmospheric home provide a deliciously creepy backdrop to this precise blend of dark humor and genuine horror. A bossier and more ambitious version of Clover Twig (Clover Twig and the Magical Flying Cottage, BCCB 9/12), Victoria is nonetheless oddly [End Page 154] endearing, and readers with their own color-coordinated planners will thrill to see her leadership skills and sheer determination save the day. That her nemesis is an adult possessed of a more exaggerated version of her own drive for perfection makes the plot somewhat purposive, but the lesson is cleverly disguised with so many narrow escapes and nightmarish bad guys that readers are unlikely to notice. Watts' dot-eyed figures in the digitally rendered black and white illustrations have a retro feel to them, but the slightly off proportions and repeated use of silhouettes match the book's macabre tone.