Beatty, Robert. Serafina and the Black Cloak. Disney Hyperion, 2015. $16.99. 293 pages. Language: G (2 swears). Violence: PG (children are swallowed by the cloak, but in the end they are okay, mountain lion protects cubs). Sexual content: G.
In 1899, Serafina lives in the basement of the Biltmore Estate in the woods of North Carolina. The mansion is owned by the Vanderbilt’s and has over 200 rooms, but none of guests or the employees knows about Serafina. Her daddy helped build the mansion and maintains the equipment, but because Serafina looks a little different he doesn’t want anyone to know about her. Serafina is the chief rat catcher and is so small that she sneaks around the house without being seen. One night she sees a man in a black cloak trying to capture a girl. She fights him, but in the end he captures the girl in the black cloak. Other children go missing. Serafina makes her first friend with Braeden Vanderbilt, the nephew of the owners. Together they decide to discover who the man is in the black cloak and why he is taking the children. Serafina search leads her to truths about her past and who she really is. The story is spooky, but not too scary and resolves with all the victims alive. Serafina and Braeden are smart and kind, even if they don’t fit in with the other children. The background of a famous mansion is perfect for this mystery and the house is almost a character itself, with its secret hiding places and stairs. The supernatural element is original and well-explained.
EL-ADVISABLE. Samantha Hastings, MA, MLS.