Serafina was not a normal child. She lived with her father in one of the basement rooms of the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, but no one knew that is where they lived. And no one new that Serafina lived at all. She stayed hidden during the day and only roamed the grounds at night when she sought out and removed the rats from the house. She liked this life for the most part. Until she changed to encounter a mysterious stranger walking the grounds at night wearing a black cloak. And until the children who stayed in Biltmore house began to disappear.
Serafina is now confronted with a need to face her own fears of discovery to try to help the children and their families. She will need to find the bravery to step out of her basement shadows and into the light, daring to maybe even make a friend. But, will her miraculous appearance make things worse? Does she have what it takes to solve this mystery?
Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty (Lexile: 850; Interest Level: Grades 3-7) is certainly a mystery, with a little horror thrown in, making it great for a scary read. Having toured Biltmore Estate, I also found it interesting to be able to create a vivid picture of the setting, although maps are included in the end papers. (320 p.)
In a wonderful novel in verse, Nikki Grimes shares the story of Garvey, a middle-school aged boy who is trying to find a way to be himself. His dad wants him to play football, but he really dislikes sports, preferring to read and listen to music. With the help of his best friend, Joe, Garvey gains the courage to try some new things that match his interests, and Garvey gains some new knowledge and confidence about himself.
Readers who enjoy realistic fiction, especially novels in verse, will enjoy Garvey's Choice (Lexile: 620; Interest Level: Grades 2-7). The verses are Tanka, a Japanese short poem of 5 lines, with a syllabic line pattern of 5-7-5-7-7. (105 p.)
One of the reasons I became an elementary school librarian is so I can read children's books.