Disney Hyperion, 2015
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
In Serafina and the Black Cloak Robert Beatty introduces us to a young girl living secretly in the basement of a mansion with her father. No one knows they live there, no one can know she exists, and whatever she does, Serafina is not to go into the forest--there's evil there. But Serafina spends her evenings roaming the grounds of Biltmore estate, catching rats and spying on the owners and their guests. One evening Serafina witnesses a little girl being dragged through the basement by a man in a black cloak who wraps her up and she disappears. Serafina knows she can't just keep this to herself. She has to help, but when she is accidentally discovered by the young master of the house, Serafina has no idea how she'll manage to help the little girl and keep her existence a secret from the rest of the world.
I really loved this book. Serafina is wild, quick, and smart. She can do things other kids her age cannot, and she doesn't look like other girls either. She's very much aware that there are things about her that are different from the other girls and boys she watches. She's also very brave. Serafina sees this terrible man in a cloak dragging a little girl away and then wrapping her up in his cloak so she disappears into thin air, yet she doesn't hide herself away. She responds. Her father tries to stop her, to keep her safe with him--hidden away in the basement--but she can't sit back. Through quick thinking and sharp senses, Serafina is able to save friends from mishaps and keep herself from being discovered by the owners of the Biltmore estate.
Serafina still doubts herself, though. Unsure of who her mother is, and knowing she is so incredibly different, she's convinced her father is ashamed of how she looks and so that's why he keeps her hidden away. She's not sure if her new friend truly likes her, or if he'll end up turning her in to his aunt and uncle for living in their basement. I think it's a feeling many kids can relate to at one point or another in their lives: How do I fit in when I'm so different from everyone else? These are themes that most middle grade students will relate to.
Kids will also love the fast-paced plot. There are plenty of moments where you hold your breath as you turn the page to see what happens next. While I was reading this at school, during our silent reading time, the timer went off, but I was in such a great spot that I groaned out loud and suggested that we read for another three minutes. Almost everyone agreed. :) It was difficult to put down and I definitely wanted to know what happened, but just as everything was building to a climax, it just kind of ended. Everything was very neatly wrapped up. There something a bit disappointing in that--and not just because it was suddenly over.
There will be a second book about Serafina. Robert Beatty has mentioned on his Goodreads page that he believes there is more to Serafina's story that he would like to explore. It has a page on Goodreads as well: Serafina and the Twisted Staff, scheduled publication date for August of next year. I will definitely go along for another adventure her!
Image Source: Goodreads
If you liked this review, consider following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus, and please "like" this review below!