Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters

Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters

Lesley M.M. Blume
For ages 9 to 12
Random House, 2008   ISBN: 978-0440421108

One would think that it would be grand to be the daughter of a famous pianist, but for Cornelia her mother's fame is a trial. Not only does Cornelia spend her life living in her mother's shadow, but she is also a very lonely eleven year old because her mother is rarely at home. Instead of having her mother in her life, Cornelia has a housekeeper whom she has little patience for. For one thing the housekeeper refuses to respect Cornelia's need for privacy, and for another she does not understand Cornelia's love of the written word. Words and books give Cornelia a refuge from the world. In fact, the girl even uses long and obscure words to keep annoying people at bay.

Cornelia does not expect to ever have a real friend and therefore she is thrilled when she makes friends with the person who moves in next door. Virginia Somerset is a writer, and she completely sympathizes with Cornelia. She understands why the girl loves words and books, and she proceeds to tell the lonely girl about her very colorful life.

Virginia's stories about the adventures that she had with her three sisters are fascinating and often funny, and they give Cornelia a picture of faraway places. Through Virginia's stories Cornelia learns about India, Morocco, France, and England – all places where Virginia lived with her three sisters.

Having Virginia in her life gives Cornelia the courage to find a place for herself in the world and she is not quite so angry all the time. But, as so often happens, change comes and Cornelia finds herself facing a frightening future.

This is a deliciously entertaining book which will have readers chuckling, and thinking hard, at frequent intervals. In addition to telling a great story, the author also explores the nature of the often painful relationships that a lonely girl has with the two most important women in her life – her mother and her best friend. Adults as well as young people will get a great deal from this book, and readers will come to appreciate the fact that one is never too old to offer comfort and help to others.