Serafina’s Promise by Ann E. Burg
The author of All the Broken Pieces returns with a new verse novel. Serafina lives with her mother and father in Haiti. She and her best friend dream of becoming doctors in order to help save people like her baby brother who died. But Serafina’s family cannot afford for her to even attend school. Instead she has to work hard to help her mother who is pregnant with another baby. Serafina carries water for her family, empties chamber pots, sweeps the floor, and keeps the family fire burning.Her father is one of the lucky ones who has a steady job in the nearby city that he walks to every day. There is no extra money for anything though, even with his work. When a large storm comes, their small village is ruined and Serafina’s family moves to higher ground. It is there that Serafina’s dreams start to come true with her new garden and the money it brings. Then the earthquake strikes.
Burg tells a gripping story of a young girl with huge dreams living in abject poverty. Her family is strong and loving, just unable to lift themselves out of the poverty that surrounds them everywhere. Burg shares small details of life in Haiti, nicely weaving them into the poetry so that it is revealed in a rich and natural way. The Creole language is also used throughout the book, offering a rhythm and sound that enlivens the entire setting.
Serafina is a well-developed character. Many of the poems show her own inner feelings in all of their complex beauty. She is not a perfect character, sometimes showing stubbornness and jealousy, but that just makes her all the more compellingly human. And the verse throughout the book is lovely, evocative and very effective. Readers will know that the earthquake is coming and that also creates a tension that makes the book riveting.
This is a powerful look at the Haitian earthquake through the eyes of one extraordinary young woman. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.