Serafina and the Black Cloak ★★★★☆

cover61596-mediumSerafina’s father always told her to never go into the deep parts of the forest, “for there are many dangers there, and they will ensnare your soul.” She never had a reason to disobey her father’s wishes for her to remain on the grounds of the Biltmore estate, exploring its many rooms, taking care to never, ever be seen by anyone (especially since the Vanderbilt’s don’t know she exists or that she and her pa have been living in their basement).

When children start to go missing, however, Serafina hunts down the culprit. Even though it means disobeying her father and going into the woods. 

Serafina and the Black Cloack by Robert Beatty is a new middle grade book from Disney Hyperion. Serafina is a cat like little girl, she is agile, smart, has great hearing–which comes in handy for hunting all those rats at the Biltmore estate–it’s probably her animal magnetism (ha!) which attracts Braeden Vanderbilt, Mr. Vanderbilt’s nephew, to her in the first place.

Watching these two form a friendship based on curiosity, necessity, and trust was simply magical. It was a cautiously built relationship which really brought out a sense of realism inside this historical fantasy.

Beatty has amazing attention to detail. I haven’t been to the Biltmore since I was a child but his descriptions really brought me back there. Beatty must have done some thorough research.

This was particularly dark for middle grade. Watching the Man in the Black Cloak take the children was absolutely terrifying! But slowly figuring who was taking the children was even more chilling!

Serafina is incredibly brave for someone who has had little to know social interaction for twelve years. And there in lies my ONLY problem with this. While her father has his reasons to hide her from the world I was deeply perturbed by his lack of care for Serafina. He never buys her clothes because he doesn’t want people asking questions about why he is buying little girl clothes, but isn’t that creepy in and of itself? I understand he is trying to hide her but all she has to wear is a large shirt and belt made of twine. A belt, I might add, that her father did not make for her, but that she made for herself.

I just think that little factoid was too much. I wonder why her father couldn’t have made her patchwork dresses from his old clothes which would have seemed less sketchy than letting his daughter run around in just a shirt.

BUT OUTSIDE OF THAT: It had great pacing, great action, and great characters. Everything connected wonderfully.

By J. M. Tuckerman

J.M.Tuckerman is a neurodivergent writer with a big education. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, an MA in Writing, and a BA in Writing Arts (specializing in Creative Writing, New Media Writing, and Publication; concentrating in New Media Production), which she somehow managed to earn despite her three very loud and large dogs. Jessica was lucky enough to intern at Quirk Books and Picador, USA while earning her master’s degrees. Her service dog, Ringo, is very proud of all that she has accomplished and hopes to be on a back cover of a published book with her very soon. An avid reader, writer, and lover of young adult and middle-grade literature, Jessica’s bookshelf is overflowing with hardbacks, paperbacks, and a million half-filled notebooks. She is a proud fur-mommy to two lab/st-bernard littermates, a retriever-mix service dog, and one orange little hobgoblin cat, all of whom have made very audible appearances on the Booked All Night podcast.

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