Based on Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters
by Lesley M. M. Blume
Cornelia Vocabulary Worksheet (PDF)
About the book
Cornelia is a lonely eleven year old girl living in busy New York City. Her mother, a famous pianist, leaves for extended periods of time traveling to exciting places to perform and vacation. Cornelia is left in the care of the housekeeper. Cornelia loves books and spends most of her days reading. She particularly loves learning new and unusual words which she likes to use on people in order to keep them at a distance. Cornelia’s life begins to change when she meets her new neighbors, an older lady named Virginia Somerset and her dog named Mister Kinyatta. Virginia begins to share with Cornelia some of the amazing adventures that she and her sisters experienced years earlier. Cornelia discovers that she and Virginia have a lot in common. Cornelia begins to see that there is more to life than just her love of words. The more she learns about Virginia, the more she learns about herself. Cornelia learns how to connect with other people. She learns that her mother has been hiding behind her music; at the same time, Cornelia learns that she has been hiding behind her vocabulary. With inspiration from Virginia, Cornelia begins a new, happier chapter in her life.
Set the stage
Use the following to get students ready to read:
- Read the title and discuss the terms audacious and escapades. Have students come up with synonyms for these words.
- Predict what the book is about. Discuss why a dog might be on the cover of the book.
- Use a world map to point out New York City, Morocco, France, England, and India.
After reading the book, discuss the following with students:
- Describe Cornelia’s relationship with other children at the beginning of the book.
- Why does Madame Desjardins call Lucy’s piano Bete Noire (black beast)? How does Lucy feel about the piano? Why doesn’t Cornelia want to take piano lessons?
- Why does Cornelia like to use big words? Do you ever do anything to keep people away? If so, what do you do?
- The Somerset sisters traveled in a time when it was unusual to see women traveling alone. Compare and contrast what it would be like for women to travel 50 years ago to today.
- When the Somerset sisters were in Morocco, they participated in a wedding. Compare and contrast that wedding with a wedding in your home town.
- What is a souk? Why did Cornelia feel like she was in a souk when she was at the yarn factory? What other places do you think could feel the same? Why did Cornelia daydream in that manner?
- While in Paris, Beatrice and Alexandra competed for the attentions of Picasso. Have you ever competed against a sibling or a close friend? How did Beatrice and Alexander feel about the outcome of their competition?
- When Cornelia and her mother are approached by reporters, what different side of Lucy does Cornelia see? What do you think Cornelia thinks about her mother at that point?
- When the Somerset sisters visited India, they are face to face with the reality that people are not treated fairly. How do they respond to this? How would you have responded in the same situation?
- Analyze the caste system by creating a graphic organizer of its main characteristics.
- How did you feel when you realized that Virginia was sick? After Virginia’s death, Patel gives Cornelia two gifts. What are these gifts? Why are they so important to Cornelia? What non-tangible gift did Virginia already give Cornelia?
- How was Cornelia’s relationship with her mother different at the end of the book from the beginning of the book? Why did this change? How was Cornelia’s relationship different with other children? What caused this change?