Serafina and the Black Cloak

Serafina has lived her entire 12 years of existence in hiding in the basement of the esteemed Biltmore Estate, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt. Why? Well, for one thing she and her pa are not supposed to be living in the basement. And also, because Serafina isn’t like all the other girls. She’s wild, fierce, and one of the best rodent catchers Biltmore has ever had – and doesn’t know about.

One night while out hunting rats, Serafina stumbles upon the kidnapping – or is it murder? It’s very difficult to tell – of the young Clara Brahms by a mysterious man wearing a black cloak. She tells her pa, but he doesn’t believe her and forbids her to tell anyone else. But Serafina can’t keep it to herself and is determined to find Clara. She confides in Mr. Vanderbilt’s nephew, Braeden Vanderbilt, who almost immediately begins to aid Serafina in her search. As they look for Clara, more children go missing, Braeden becomes a target, and Serafina’s mysterious past begins to confuse her.

What does the Man in the Black Cloak want with all the children? Why is there an entire missing village just outside Biltmore’s grounds? And just who is Serafina?

Serafina and the Black Cloak is written by Robert Beatty, a resident of Asheville, NC (my home state) which is where the famed Biltmore Estate resides. A middle grade novel set in the early start of the 20th century, Beatty utilizes both the interior and grounds of Biltmore. If you have ever visited Biltmore before (and I have, many, many times), you’ll find Beatty’s descriptions accurate and yet not so since he is describing life in a time period few of us have actually lived. He makes Biltmore come alive. And he perfectly blends fantasy with reality in this novel.

As an adult reading a middle grade novel, I felt the same as I have before: I don’t really click with the story and characters since I am not the target age reader. However, as a future youth services librarian, I find it a richly detailed story I would recommend to young readers.

My rating: 4/5


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