FICTION

Serafina's Promise

304p. glossary. Scholastic. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545535649; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545549943.
COPY ISBN
RedReviewStarGr 4–6—Serafina is just 11, but she fetches water from a stream every day and helps her family add to the coin jar by bundling the herbs her mother and grandmother sell. She has witnessed the death of her infant brother, wishing and wondering if she could have done more to save him. Told in verse, this first-person account of a young girl's life in Haiti is filled with sadness and the harsh realities of poverty, yet the poetic narrative sings of hope and promise. Inspired by Antoinette Solaine, the doctor who attends to her dying brother, Serafina vows to find a way to go to school and one day help others. But who would bring the water and help Manman with the chores? And the few coins in the jar do not come close to the cost of a school uniform and shoes. The story unfolds as the family, already victims of political unrest, now faces natural disasters and separation. Serafina, always the healer, rises above obstacles and hardship, keeping her dreams and her promises close at hand. A powerful and uplifting story of family and sacrifice, perfect even for reluctant readers.—Cheryl Ashton, Amherst Public Library, OH
Serafina lives in modern rural Haiti. Food is scarce, and her mother is pregnant again. Serafina longs to attend school and become a doctor like Antoinette Solaine, who tried unsuccessfully to save Serafina's baby brother, Pierre. Woven into the spare first-person free-verse poems is the history of Haiti and Serafina's family. Rich details of everyday life add texture to this emotional, fast-moving tale. Glos.
Serafina lives in the land of mountains beyond mountains (dhyh mrn gen mrn): modern rural Haiti. Though her father owns a grocery store in Port-au-Prince, daily life at home is still a challenge. Food is scarce, and Serafina's mother is pregnant again. This time, maybe the baby will survive. Serafina longs for the day when she can go to school and become a doctor like Antoinette Solaine, who tried unsuccessfully to save Serafina's baby brother, Pierre. She also lives with the guilt that she somehow did not do her best to help Manman after Pierre's birth. Woven into the spare first-person free-verse poems is the history of Haiti and Serafina's family. One night Gogo, Serafina's grandmother, tells the story of her husband, who had taught himself to read and was beginning to teach his family when the dreaded Tonton Macoutes took him away. Serafina determines to fulfill Granph's dream of an education. The family finally saves enough money to send Serafina to school, but then the 2010 earthquake occurs, nearly taking Papa's life but also, unexpectedly, opening a door to Serafina's future. Rather than the sad story Americans often hear about Haiti, Burg captures the lives of hard-working people who praise God and move forward, even when difficulties conspire against them. Rich details of everyday life add texture to this emotional, fast-moving tale. A glossary and a pronunciation guide are included. robin l. smith

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