What You Need to Know:|
• A young Haitian girl and her family maintain their dignity and resolve, despite extreme poverty and repeated
assaults from Mother Nature.
• Readers will get a nice introduction to the Haitian culture.
• Serafina's Promise is unique in that it is a novel written in verse. This style along with the poetic language helps
to keep the pages turning quickly.
• Check out annburg.com to see how this book can be used in classrooms and how it meets Common Core standards.
• There are references to the political unrest in Haiti, including the military group known as the Tonton Macoutes.
• Several characters suffer and die due to various outside forces.
Many kids spend their days figuring out how to get out of school, but what if getting an education wasn't even an option for them? Would they still see it as a burden or drudgery? Perhaps Serafina's Promise will change some minds when readers see the world through the eyes of a young girl who truly understand the value of an education, despite her lack of schooling.
Growing up in Haiti, Serafina spends her days barefoot, doing chores to help sustain her family's meager existence. At age 11, she sweeps the floors, empties the chamber pots, gathers wood, and carries buckets of water. The family sleeps on the floor of their one room hut, food is often scarce and her baby brother's life lasted only a few weeks. While she has good friends and family, she knows that their lack of schooling has limited their living conditions, opportunities and chances of survival. This knowledge and her brother's death inspire Serafina to become a doctor, but to do that, she also knows that she must go to school.
Serafina faces many challenges along the way. How can they afford the uniform and shoes that are required at school? When is the right time to broach the subject of school with her parents? How can she leave her mother when the family needs her help at home? Although they are loving and want the best for her, Serafina knows that they rely on her, especially now that her mother is pregnant with another baby. Little does Serafina realize that there are bigger obstacles, like floods and earthquakes in her future. These will make her dreams and her family's survival even more uncertain, but Serafina maintains her optimism and determination.
Despite their impoverished conditions, Serafina and her family are devoted, kindhearted people. They go to church, take care of each other and find small ways to celebrate life. It's the support of those around her that helps Serafina to keep her dreams alive. Her good friend, Jean Marie, encourages her and reminds her that "Outsides don't matter. What matters is on the inside." Her grandmother teaches her many life lessons like "A kind heart is the fanciest dress of all." A well-meaning doctor inspires her with a small gift, a stethoscope. The uplifting words and exemplary conduct in this tale may inspire readers in their own thinking and actions, but at the very least, Serafina's touching story of sacrifice and perseverance is bound to inspire interesting conversations.
Ann E. Burg
2013, 304 pages
Determination, Ethnicity/Culture, Family Life, Friendship, Girl Power, Identity, Life Challenges, Poverty, School
• What are some of the obstacles that Serafina faces in this story?
• Why is Serafina so desperate to go to school?
• Describe the relationship between Gogo and Serafina?
• How do Gogo's "words of wisdom" help her during her difficult times?
• Why does Serafina ignore Nadia when she sees her?
• How do Serafina's parents sacrifice to make her life better?
• Why does Nadia say that the teacher gave her the last yellow notebook?
• Why doesn't Serafina wave to Nadia when she sees her on Flag Day?
• In what ways is Jean Marie a good friend?
• How does Antoinette Solaine inspire Serafina?
• How does this book impact your feelings about school?
• Serafina wonders, "What good is being brave if being brave gets you killed?" How would you answer this question?
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