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Serafina and the Black Cloak (A MG Book Review)

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

This middle grades book takes place at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Serafina’s Pa works for Mr. Vanderbilt and, unbeknownst to the Vanderbilts, live in the basement of Biltmore Estate. Serafina knows that she’s different---both in appearance and behavior—but she doesn’t understand why and doesn’t understand the reasons that her father keeps her hidden. Then one night Sera sees a mysterious man in a black cloak who takes one of the children who is staying at the Estate. Soon, Sera is determined to figure out who this man is and just what he is doing. Along the way, she finally makes a friend and follows the clues to both solve the mystery of the Man in the Black Cloak and of her true identity.

This is a cute book full of mystery and suspense. Most of the chapters end in cliffhangers, which may be helpful if you have a reluctant reader. Serafina is likable as she grapples with being different, as well as higher level concepts like what it means to be good or evil. This novel shows that heroes can come in all shapes and sizes, and that we are all different with various strengths and weaknesses. The prose is well-written, although a bit old-timey due to the setting. The Estate is mysterious in itself, and even more interesting for a historical tie-in. I gave this book 4-4.5/5 stars. It is published by Disney Hyperion. The sequel is Serafina and the Twisted Staff.

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