Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters

by Lesley M. M. Blume

Paperback, 2008

Call number



Yearling (2008), Edition: Reprint, 272 pages


Cornelia, eleven-years-old and lonely, learns about language and life from an elderly new neighbor who has many stories to share about the fabulous adventures she and her sisters had while traveling around the world.

User reviews

LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
Withdrawing into a world of words, eleven-year-old Cornelia S. Englehart keeps the hurtful elements of her life - an absent father and a distant mother (both world-famous pianists), an interfering housekeeper/child-minder, classmates whose only interest in her was for the sake of her famous parents
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- at bay in this debut children's novel from Lesley M.M. Blume. But when seventy-something Virginia Somerset, together with her companion Patel, and her French bulldog Mister Kinyatta, moves into the apartment next door, the young New York girl finds herself drawn, through the very medium that she had used to isolate herself, into the wider world. For Virginia, a noted author and international bon vivant, begins to relate some of the many escapades into which she and her three sisters were drawn, as young women touring the world. Through these tales, and through Virginia's entrance into her life, Cornelia comes to see that words are meant to connect people, rather than to shut them out...

Chosen as our April selection, over in The Children's Fiction Book Club to which I belong, Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters is a book that I have struggled to rate, vacillating between a two and three stars. All the elements for an engaging tale are there - disaffected young heroine, quirky secondary characters, adorable animal, a plot-line involving the power of words - but somehow the end product, through most of the course of my reading, was irritating, rather than charming. I felt as if Blume were simply trying too hard, and the result was somewhat forced, as if the narrator were shouting at me: "Hey kiddies, look! Look how super-special, cosmopolitan, and quirky I am!!!" If you're going to write a "poor little rich girl" story, than you have to get past that obnoxious aroma of privilege and self-entitlement that it evokes, and I never felt that Blume quite succeeded. On the other hand, I did care enough about the characters that, the (completely foreseeable) ending having come, I was moved. So, in sum: a low three stars. I didn't enjoy it as much as I'd hoped to, although there were some elements that had promise.
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LibraryThing member IzzyInTheAlley
I was surprised at how much I loved this book. At first I found Cornelia a bit irratating, then I grew to like her more. My favorites, though were the fasinating adventures of the Somerset's. I loved those stories. Now, even though the ending was kind of sad, it still felt... right. I though this
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book had a wonderful story that woman and girls of any age will appreciate.
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LibraryThing member cabri
A young girl finds refuge from the world of world-class pianists (her parents) and their hangers-on (her classmates' parents) in her dictionaries, to the dismay of her mother and the confusion of her housekeeper. One day a world-famous author moves in next door and the author, her manservant, and
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her French bulldog teach Cornelia that friendship and imagination can be just as much a refuge as the world of facts.

I like the idea behind this book, and I love the stories Virginia Somerset tells, but overall the book falls a bit flat for me. I think it's a lack of rhythm in the writing but whatever it, despite being fairly short, it took me a while to finish.
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LibraryThing member zblibrary
Eleven-year-old Cornelia S. Englehart lives in New York City with her world-famous pianist mother. Cornelia hates living in the shadow of her famous mother. While Cornelia’s mother travels around the world giving concerts, Cornelia stays in New York and isolates herself with books and loves to
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scare away her housekeeper Madame Desjardins with her extensive vocabulary. Cornelia’s loneliness begins to fade however, when Cornelia gets three new next-door neighbors, Virginia Somerset, her servant Patal, and their crazy French bulldog. Through Virginia’s stories Cornelia breaks open her shell and learns valuable lessons about life and relationships.
Cornelia was such a fun book to read. The characters were lively and entertaining. Readers are able to transport themselves along with Cornelia, through time and around the globe with the rambunctious Somerset sisters. Cornelia teaches the reader to examine their own relationships, encourages living life to the fullest, exploring other cultures, and above all, the value of friendships.
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LibraryThing member booksandbosox
It was okay. At first, I was really enjoying it. Cornelia is kind of annoying, but it's easy to understand where she's coming from. The friendship with Virginia came a little too easily. I enjoyed the "extra-credit" words that kids can learn throughout the book (similar to "A Series of Unfortunate
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Events" though these words seem a trifle more difficult). However, I was a bit put off by the book's change of tone. It presents itself as a breezy story about an old woman and a solitary girl and their friendship but it gets rather heavy in places and especially at the end. I can see that being a problem for a ten-year-old girl setting out to read this.
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LibraryThing member knielsen83
This was a great book about a girl who uses long, hard words to ward off people she does not like. She grows up fatherless and practically motherless (as her mother is often gone, playing piano concerts because she is a famous pianist) and is lonely until she meets Virginia Somerset, a neighbor of
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hers. Virginia shares stories of her times traveling with her sisters and helps Cornelia to realize how she does not always have to be alone.
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LibraryThing member lizardva
This book was a book that I got at the bookfair because I had extra money and it sounded somewhat interesting. I gave it a try and I really enjoied it. I was over in England at the time I was reading it, so reading about the sisters' adventure in Paris was really neat because I was only a couple of
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hours away form there.
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LibraryThing member ccino
I loved this book so much that I read it twice!!! you know when you read a REALLY good book you can hear and smell everything that they are describing? well, this book does this so well that you feel s though you are a character. It's bout a little girl with a VERY famous mother who travels a lot,
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so she doesn't get to see her very often. She also doesn't have any friends because whenever she is invited over to someone's house it's only because their mother made them so that they could send home a party invite for Cornelia's mother. And the one day, she see a bunch of boxes and things in font of the neighboring apartment. Above the handle there is a strange plaque that read " Attention! Chien bizard!". what could this mean?
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LibraryThing member njluvr01
"Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters" is an AMAZING book. It a about a girl named Cornelia and she is friends with a woman named Virginia Somerset who went on a lot lf cool adventures as a teenager. She traveled to many different countries and met many new people. She takes
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Corneila through all of her adventures while staing in her own apartment. I really reccomend this book and it is gook if you are looking for a quick,but gook read.
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LibraryThing member kyavorski12
I LOVE this book! It's about a girl named Cornelia that is kind of lonely, she doesn't have any friends, until someone named Virginia Somerset moves in next door. They soon become good friends, as Virginia talks about her life and her journeys. I would recommend this book to anyone.
LibraryThing member abbylibrarian
Cornelia is a lonely little girl whose famous pianist mother often leaves her alone while she goes on trips. Having a famous mother is a burden for Cornelia who feels like most people she meets are more interested in her mother than they are in her. Until she meets her new next-door neighbor-
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Virginia Somerset. Virginia is the only grown-up that's ever treated Cornelia like she was her own person and Cornelia grows to relish hearing Virginia's stories of her travels with her sisters.

There's not a lot of plot in this book- the bulk of the book is made up of Virginia's stories. Even so, you get to know the Somerset sisters a bit and their escapades can be funny. The book seemed a bit too long to me and I'm not sure how I feel about the ending...
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LibraryThing member appleblossom
My new favorite book!
LibraryThing member Marared9
One of my very favorite books, and a great favorite of my 11 year-old daughter as well. Cornelia is a child living in New York City with a mother who is a famous pianist. Her mother is distracted and inattentive, and when Cornelia seeks companionship she finds that a new neighbor has an intriguing
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past. Virginia regales Cornelia with stories of her and her sisters' "audacious escapades" around the world. As Virginia becomes increasingly ill, Cornelia is forced to mature in her relationship with her mother and make something valuable of what she has learned from Virginia. This is one of those "old-fashioned" and "clean" stories, but with a fresh new face.
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LibraryThing member bplteen
Review by: Adena

Cornelia S. Englehart has lived a very lonely life. She has never had any friends, her mother is a famous pianist so she is always away, her housekeeper takes care of her, and she has never met her father. But Cornelia's secret refuge is in her books of long words (or the
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dictionary). One day a new neighbor moves in next door and outside their door is a sign that reads "ATTENTION! CHIEN BIZARRE." and Cornelia's life suddenly changes. Behind the door she finds a magical world where she meets the last surviving Sister of the Somerset Sisters and listens to magical stories from Morocco to India. Along the way Cornelia makes some heartwarming friends and opens up to the world around her.
I very much enjoyed this book and it will definitely keep you reading. I would suggest to anyone seeking a friend, seeking adventure, or just looking for a good read.
I give this book a definite 5 stars! *****
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LibraryThing member JenJ.
Two stories are told in alternating chapters in Cornelia: the story of Cornelia S. Englehart and her search for friends is the first and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters is the second. Cornelia is the eleven-year-old daughter of two piano prodigies and, despite the fascinating New
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York world surrounding her, she is very lonely. Her father has never been in her life and her mother is always on tour. Cornelia is left with the nosy French housekeeper Madame Desjardins who can only be kept at bay with the long, complicated words Cornelia loves. When Virginia Somerset and her dog Mister Kinyatta move in next door, Cornelia's finds a kindred spirit as Virginia is a writer who also loves words. Soon Virginia begins to recount the amazing adventures she and her three sisters had all over the world during the mid-20th century and Cornelia's present-day world slowly comes alive.
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LibraryThing member BrynDahlquis
Initially I was a little skeptical of Cornelia. The writing is a bit choppy and awkward, and Cornelia herself is a little too stereotypical for me. Misunderstood, bookishly weird, friendless, etc. But as I read more, I started to become charmed by Cornelia S. Englehart and Virginia Somerset. I
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discovered depth in Cornelia's character, though by no means a startlingly large amount.

Normally I don't really like books about a person telling a story (there's a word for that kind of story and I can't remember what it is), but Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters turned out to be rather charming. Lesley M.M. Blume does a good job of blending the historic stories of Virginia with Cornelia's modern struggles.

The ending is also pretty sad, but pretty good at the same time.

It's a cute little book I would give to people who enjoy touching children's adventure novels, and definitely one I'd give to an eleven-year-old girl.
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LibraryThing member lmeza
I'm on Ch.3 make that another Summer read.
I loved it! I almost cried at the end, I wish there was a series of this but without Virginia it wouldn't be the same ....
I like the cover of Cornelia walking instead of the cover I got.
LibraryThing member snussbaum
A great little story!
Great life lessons and adventure to fuel your imagination, this story is sure to make you smile
LibraryThing member writercity
I thought the first Harry Potter book would be the one I'd love above all others, but this book was life-changing for me. The characters are unforgettable and so perfectly scripted. I'll love this book for the rest of my life.


Mark Twain Readers Award (Nominee — 2009)
Grand Canyon Reader Award (Nominee — Intermediate — 2010)




0440421101 / 9780440421108


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