Serafina's Promise by Ann E. Burg is a great upper elementary and middle school book written in free verse for girls. It's a fast read, since it is written in verse, and one that will give readers new insight on how other people live in other parts of the world.
Serafina is a young girl that lives in Haiti. She is poor and comes from a poor family. Her life consists of sleeping on a dirt floor, collecting water from a ravine several times a day, and rarely having enough to eat.
Though, I do appreciate how Serafina looks at some of the difficulties she has in life. She said, "Sometimes happiness eases hunger better than rice and beans." (pg 63)
Even though Serafina is quite poor and has chores that few, if any, children in America have to experience she is still a relatable character. Serafina desperately wants to go to school; now I realize readers may not want to go to school, but they most definitely want things badly like Serafina.
Serafina also has great friends, good family, and hard things that she has to overcome. All in all, she is a relatable character, and I felt her determination and bravery was a strong trait readers could benefit from.
I give Serafina's Promise 4.5 out of 5 stars. It's a good book that kept me interested throughout the story. I found the Creole phrases fitting and not too distracting, though a struggling reader would definitely struggle with the free verse format and the phrases in a different language.
The character development was quite good, and I found I cared for Serafina and what was going to happen to her However, even though I felt the story was good and written well, I didn't feel it left an impact with me for more than just being a good story. I appreciated the read, but I wasn't wowed by it.
Amazon had the following book review:
"Serafina is an 11-year-old Haitian struggling to keep her dream of becoming a doctor alive. Living in a desolate mountain village, Serafina toils at her daily chores while planning to attend school in the requisite uniform and shoes. Serafina has a warm family, a true friend in Julie Marie, and an encouraging woman doctor, who all come to support her vision. Then a flood washes away the family home, and the roaring stampede of an earthquake devastates the city of Port-au-Prince, where Serafina’s father works and Julie Marie lives. In this novel in verse, the author of the acclaimed All the Broken Pieces (2009) uses a lush narrative bouquet, filled with blooms of quiet verse, rhythmic Creole, and Haitian proverbs and sayings that capture life’s poignancy and hardships, including a message that Serafina has learned from an early age: “If you want your eggs to hatch, sit on them yourself.” In Burg’s lyrical tale, Serafina is a force of nature in her own right who carries her family, friends, and dreams to safe ground."
Happy almost historical fiction, free verse, book reading! It will definitely be an eye-opening read.
If you haven't read the book you may not want to read this. It's not exactly a spoiler, but it does give some away.
As a reader I was a bit bummed and annoyed with the way Burg ended the story. I wanted to know for sure what happened with Manman and Gogo after the earthquake rather than just hear that the city had it far worse than those that lived outside the city. I wanted to know that they were okay and everything was going to be alright.
Have you read Serafina's Promise? What did you think?