Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Serafina's Promise, by Ann E. Burg

There's nothing like reading a story about a impoverished Haitian girl, whose one dream is to be able to go to school and become a doctor, to make you want to retch at all those whiny suburban white girls who complain because they can't get a boy to kiss them.  At least, that was my first thought when I read Ann E. Burg's forthcoming verse novel, Serafina's Promise about a little girl growing up in the developing world.

But once I moved beyond the obvious differences between Serafina and her financially-better off sisters, I realized that there were plenty of similarities as well.  She dreams of a better life, but views the world socially (valuing her friends as much as her successes).  She enjoys playing, but understands her responsibilities to her family. She simultaneously loves her mother, yet wants to surpass her, being unwilling to settle for the life that her Mom seems to live.  Like many other children, she exaggerates her responsibility for the misfortunes of adults (even if her experience with murdered relatives is a bit more extreme than an American's) and searches for a balanced understanding of where she fits in.  And, if anything, Serafina is blessed by a tight family unit, a particularly strong work ethic, and some good fortune.

Verse novels are a bit of a flighty affair.  In this case, the verse doesn't add much to the story, but it doesn't hurt the story either.  What is wonderful is Burg's ear for the local Creole and the cadence of the spoken language of Haiti.  The dialogue of the characters makes the setting come alive and is itself fascinating.  As an opportunity to travel to another place and see the world through another's eyes, this is a memorable read.

[Disclosure:  I was sent a free copy of the book by the publisher for the purpose of writing this review.  After I finish writing this entry, I will donate the book to my local public library.]

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