Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters

Grades: 4-6
Mark Twain Award Nominee 2008-2009

Aside from having possibly the best title in a while, Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters, by Leslie M. M. Blume, has some really crafty storytelling to it as well.

When Cornelia meets eccentric neighbor, Virginia, the two become fast and very unlikely friends; unlikely because a ten-year-old and an old woman are rarely thought of as buddies. However, the friends share two passions: words and storytelling (Cornelia listens and Virginia tells).

The text of the book jumps in time from present to past to present, sometimes within Virginia’s story. While this technique is generally eschewed by children’s authors in favor of a more linear timeline, Blume manages to make the transitions seamless and easy to follow.

The character of Cornelia is well developed even in the beginning of the book as the audience is given clues as to why Cornelia would be such a fast friend of Virginia. Virginia, the source of most of the book's storytelling, shines as Blume’s biggest work of art. Virginia is just crazy enough to be fun and just grounded enough to be serous when the need arises.

With a fast, interlocking plot, Cornelia and Virginia seem to move through time and space experiencing hilarious mishaps while traveling the globe. Each of Virginia’s stories involves some kind of cultural misunderstanding, but ultimately serves as point of didacticism. Each story teaches something, but I really like that Blume lets the readers glean their own meaning instead of pushing one onto them.

Another credit to Blume is that while the ending is sweet, Cornelia does endure a pretty big tragedy: one that readers might suspect, but hope won’t happen. The tragedy ultimately proves to make Cornelia stronger. Cornelia is not left with memories only—a very special trinket reminds her of where she’s been and where she might go.

Blume’s ability to weave stories together -- and to tell good stories at that -- is what makes this book worth the read. The bittersweet novel about growing up and learning about life will keep readers interested and maybe even inspire them to tell tales of their own.

Rating: 4 and a half pages

1 comment: