cover image Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters

Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters

Lesley M. M. Blume, . . Knopf, $17.99 (264pp) ISBN 978-0-375-93523-7

This promising first novel introduces memorable 11-year-old Cornelia S. Englehart, who lives in Greenwich Village with her "very famous concert pianist" mother, Lucille Englehart. Cornelia finds it difficult to make friends, as people often use her to get to her famous parent. She utilizes her "impressive dictionary collection" to learn long, confusing words in order to protect herself from people who pester her with "nugatory" questions about her mother. When the renowned elderly writer Virginia Somerset moves in next door, Cornelia discovers that they both "practice the art of parisology." They grow close over cups of mint tea, and Virginia's stories of her "audacious escapades" with her three sisters captivate Cornelia. Readers, however, may find these stories to be more of a distraction than an enhancement, partly because the stories of the Somerset sisters unfold from an adult perspective and partly because they detract from the main story line about the heroine's unfolding friendship with Virginia and Cornelia's problematic relationship with her mother. Still, the blossoming bond between Cornelia and Virginia is central to this tender story, and their passion for words is infectious. When Virginia suggests to Cornelia, "Did it ever occur to you that your mother speaks through music and not words?" her question opens up an opportunity for Cornelia to begin to heal her relationship with her mother. Blume is a writer to watch. Ages 8-12. (Aug.)