Serafina’s Promise

Ann E. Burg. Scholastic Press, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-545-53564-9
Burg follows her debut, All the Broken Pieces, with this quieter yet compelling novel in verse about sensitive, ambitious 11-year-old Serafina, who lives in poverty in rural Haiti with her cheerful, compassionate father; hardworking, tightlipped mother; and wise grandmother, Gogo. Mourning the recent death of her baby brother while anxiously awaiting the birth of a new sibling, Serafina tries to please and help her family. Inspired by the female doctor who tended to her brother, she harbors a longing to attend school: “In the quiet,/ my own heart beat/ its unspoken secret./ I promised myself/ that one day/ I would be a real doctor.” Burg’s understated free verse—liberally sprinkled with Haitian Creole phrases—gains power as Serafina’s family is displaced by a flood, which is cruelly followed by the 2010 earthquake; the author skillfully weaves in information about the country’s traumatic history in a way that makes it personally significant to Serafina. While Serafina’s circumstances differ dramatically from those of most readers, her conflicting emotions about family dynamics and friendship, and her struggle to assert her aspirations, will resonate with many. Ages 10–14. Agent: Jodi Reamer, Writers House. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/09/2013
Release date: 09/24/2013
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