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LOVED this book. Where should I start? Serafina catapulted me into that rare surreal distracted state when you have fallen headlong into a read. If you have a block of time to finish it cover-to-cover in a sitting or two, you will. When I closed it up I thought, now wait, what kind of book was this, anyway? I considered Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, Lemony Snicket, and Harry Potter. A dash of Downton Abbey? Its a young adult book, but I loved it for myself (a woman of a certain age. )I came to young adult books like many people after reading to my kids and encouraging them to read over the years. (They are now 13, 17 and 20). All of us loved mysteries and scary stories, but for mom, the historical fiction part was a big plus. I never understood why people wouldnt like this genre, unless the storytelling is bad. Serafina is a great read but also provides an infusion of knowledge about life at the Biltmore Estate circa 1899. I have a friend who argues, but I would just rather read the history book. I say with historical fiction that you and your kids are officially in the know about a new topic, enriched and smarter for it. It can be a starting point for further books and film and even a field trip. (In this case the Biltmore Estate. )Serafina the heroine is a teen-age girl struggling with her identity and place in the world. Her journey reflects universal feelings of angst we all have in middle school and beyond. They are timeless struggles. The villain is the wonderfully bone-chilling and Neil Gaimanish man in the black cloak. It is definitely creepy, but awesomely creepy. Serafinas character was so darn likeable and tenacious that it added a dimension of warmth and light that diffused the scary part sufficiently. I loved it for several other reasons: for starters, Beattys descriptive language. He creates metaphor, simile and tone that are uncomplicated but spot on for poignancy. That is always my favorite part of a book when a writer can do that well. I also found that even though Serafina has a sprinkling of Gaiman/Snicket/Dahl, Beatty has created something incredibly unique in the Internet Age: a tale that feels different and all its own. Why Downton Abbey? Because that series could essentially have been filmed at the Biltmore Estate. Serafina doesnt just live in the basement with her Pa. Shes a fearless explorer that goes upstairs and beyond for a spectator view of the lavish Vanderbilt/Downton Abbey life. I loved the contrast in setting between the drama unfolding in the mechanical boiler-room basement and the posh tapestry-walled grand upstairs. Since Disney published this book, and it is inherently movie worthy with its setting and characters I predict filming to follow soon. Hope so. Will be unique experience for my kids and me to have been with this special book since the beginning. Check it out!
From School Library Journal Gr 5–7—A mystery set at a sumptuous estate, featuring a courageous female protagonist entangled in a hair-raising adventure. It is 1899 and 12-year-old Serafina lives with her Pa in the basement of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. Pa had come to Asheville years ago to help with construction and stayed on as a fixer of all things mechanical in the 250-room mansion. For reasons unknown to Serafina, they must keep their nightly lodgings in the basement a secret as well as the existence of Serafina herself. She has developed catlike skills in exploring the vast Biltmore estate and enjoys sneaking through heating vents and other small spaces in order to eavesdrop on staff and inhabitants. Her quiet existence is shattered when she witnesses a strange man dragging a tearful young girl down into the bowels of the vast home. The man is wearing a large black cloak and reassures the young girl that everything is okay. Suddenly, the captive struggles to get away from the man and his cloak appears to come alive. It wraps itself around the terrified child as she calls out for help. Serafina is frozen with fear and before she can react, the girl has vanished. Serafina escapes, thanks to her agility, and discovers the next day that a visitor of the Vanderbilts by the name of Clara has disappeared during the night. More children disappear and it becomes increasingly obvious that Serafina’s new best friend, Braeden, is the man in the black cloak’s newest target. The story drips with suspense, wrapping readers into the narrative just as easily as the man in the black cloak binds his young victims. Serafina’s friendship with Braeden is heartfelt and believable. The ending is tied up too neatly, but that’s a minor quibble; most horror and mystery fans will enjoy this book. VERDICT A creepy, suspenseful read that’s not quite as dark as the works of Neil Gaiman or Adam Gidwitz.—Julie Shatterly, W. A. Bess Elementary School, Gastonia, NC –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Serafina and the Black Cloak Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged by Robert Beatty (Author) Review
Absolutely amazing book! When I first heard Disney had published a book set at the Biltmore I was afraid, how could it possibly do justice to such a wonderful house. ..? My fears were completely unfounded!Mr. Beatty is an incredible writer, he truly captures the universal struggle we all have to belong, and shows us an incredible young lady finding her way. My daughter and I were lucky enough to meet him at a B&N book signing. He made each person feel welcomed, it was great to hear him talk about the process of writing the novel. I can’t wait to see where the Serafina journey takes him! -Read Reviews-
Very entrancing. I’ve been to Biltmore and fell in love with the place. I could picture in my mind the rooms and the grounds in the book. The story is captivating and just pulls you along. And it seems there’s a hidden message to the target audience of young readers that no matter where you come from or what your status in society, your legacy is how you treat others. This one is definitely NOT going to find itself in the trading pile for McKay’s. It’s getting kept, not just because it was a delightful read, but so my 3 year old can read it when she’s old enough.
Tags: & Detective Stories, 19th Century, Action & Adventure - General, Cassandra Campbell, Children: Grades 4-6, Children's Audio - 9-12, Children's audiobooks, Espionage, Fantasy & Magic, Ghost Stories, Historical, Historical - United States - 19th Century, Historical fiction (Children's, Juvenile Fiction, Juvenile Horror, Listening Library (Audio), Magic, Missing children, Mysteries, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Rich people - Homes and haunts, Robert Beatty, Serafina and the Black Cloak, Teenage), Thrillers - Suspense, United States