CORNELIA and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters
by Leslie M.M. Blume
Review by Michael Rosser
I have just read a first novel written for 11 + girls and thoroughly enjoyed it. Mr Kinyatta is a French Bulldog. He and his forebears feature large in the book. Despite age and sex differences, I read the book effortlessly, was entranced, amused and emotionally involved at the end.
250,000 copies have been sold from bookstores and book fairs across the country. The hardcover was published in 2006 (Alfred A. Knopf 264 pp US $15.95 CAN $21) and the paperback in 2008 (Yearling, a Random House division US $6.50 CAN $7.00).
Cornelia is the daughter of world-famous pianists. She never sees her father, her mother is usually away giving concerts around the world and Cornelia is lonely. She uses her dictionaries and long confusing words as a defence to pestering questions about her famous mother, though otherwise barely utters a word.
An elderly writer Virginia Somerset moves in next door to Cornelia in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, with her French Bulldog Mister Kinyatta and her Indian servant Patel. Through the frenchie and their love of words, a firm friendship forms between Cornelia and Virginia Somerset. The writer relates wonderful stories of the “Audacious Escapades” that she and her three Somerset sisters had, travelling and having adventures in different cultures and continents in 1949 and the early 1950s, including involving the four French Bulldogs first acquired in Paris.
The stories are based on actual places (such as real locations in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village) and on Lesley Blume’s own travels and journals, as well as her experience as a former off-air reporter and researcher for ABC News Nightline.
The book rightly has had excellent reviews and plaudits, including being chosen as one of the Best Children’s Books of 2007 and nominations for the 2010 Grand Canyon Reader Award, the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award and the Mark Twain Reading Award.
“Beautiful, moving and humorous, this book will be cherished by anyone who reads it.” (Los Angeles Times)
Do get the hardcover for your collection and read it, if you haven’t done so already.