This blog is basically about how good books are nice and bad books are the pits. And then I get grumpy.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Leslie M.M. Blume

Loved the title when I first saw it and the adorable French Bulldog on the cover. Was very curious to learn what a youthful Oxford and Cambridge-educated author had written.

I pretty much flew through this book. Cornelia is actually not a dog, contrary to what the cover of the hardback might make you think. But she is a winsome young character who lives in the sophisticated world of concert pianists in Manhattan, which is interesting enough. Leslie M.M. Blume, the author, adds something, though. And what she adds really makes the book....

Now, here is where I start to worry about the many articles, blogs, books, etc that I read. Somewhere sometime somebody in the very recent past compared some piece of literature (or some story or something else) to the magical residence of Sarah Crewe's next-door neighbor in A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. (You see how hazy my memory is?) And I'm not sure if it was this book, Cornelia, that that person was comparing Princess to or not.

Regardless, let me appropriate the comparison and use it here. Basically, Cornelia finds a "world" next door to the swanky apartment she shares with her pianist mother. It's an even swankier, and considerably more exotic (there are palm trees growing out of the floor), apartment occupied by an elderly writer. The woman's tales and incredible apartment have a huge effect on Cornelia's life.

While it's not exactly a novel idea for a child character to undergo a metamorphosis after meeting a wise older person, Blume's tale joins in strong form the roster of these kinds of stories. The descriptions of the apartment are vivid. The old lady's stories are engaging. The characters and images are drawn such that many can be seen particularly well with the mind's eye.

If I, an adult, had this reaction to Cornelia, I can imagine that a child reading this book would be as absorbed in it as the title character is entranced by neighboring apartment with palm trees growing out of the floor.

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