Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Leslie M. M. Blume
Eleven-year old Cornelia is a lonely girl whose mother is a famous concert pianist. Her mother is always travelling and never takes Cornelia on the road with her. Cornelia is always left at home with just the nosy housekeeper, Madame Desjardins. Her quiet nature causes the other students in her class to alienate her, leaving Cornelia to cope in the best way she knows how: by learning loads of advanced vocabulary words. She uses these words as a wall whenever brown-nosing parents want to know more about Cornelia's mom. Cornelia just uses big words, and POOF!, the questions stop.
Cornelia lives in a high-rise apartment building in the middle of Greenwich Village, and it looks like some new neighbors have moved in. One day, Cornelia is walking down the wall, when a black blur comes dashing out of the new neighbor's door. It is Mister Kinyatta, a black bull terrier puppy. Cornelia meets Mister Kinyatta's owner, the elegant Virginia, and her housekeeper/companion, Patel. Cornelia becomes friends with Virginia, a strange, elusive woman with a love of words and a different room in her home to represent the trips she has taken around the world with her sisters--to Morocco, France, England, and India.
Virginia shares her life with Cornelia story by story, becoming like Scheherazade from the Arabian Nights, only the stories aren't told to save her own life, but Cornelia's. Virginia has an Auntie Mame quality. She is well-travelled and very sophisticated. Her fascinating stories breathe life back in Cornelia's dowdy existence.
The stories are fascinating and entertaining. Sisters Virginia, Beatrice, Alexandra, and chubby Gladys seem to find adventure everywhere they go. For me, the story was just okay, but it was a clean read, and I could see it appealing to middle grade girls that feel isolated or long for adventure. Written by Lesley M. M. Blume.
Review by Lindsey Dunn, guest contributor