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I love checking out these books as potential gifts for my Grandchildren - and in the "Serafina" series by Robert Beatty, I have found a winner.
Like "The Hunger Games" and even the Harry Potter series, these books do have a lot of violence, and that may and should be of concern to all of us. However, as in the kids' books mentioned, there is also a lot of energy, action, good writing, and heart! The message here is sound.
Beatty finds an appealing blend of the real (the Vanderbilt estate in North Carolina, with its Blue Ridge Mountain surroundings), the fantastic (rooted in Mountain folklore), and the coming-of-age tale. Serafina is growing up, and her longing for companionship, love, and acceptance reflect the traditional format for middle-reader-to-teen fiction. This child is truly different, and she has so far lived in isolation and confusion about her origins and her place in the world. Now, she has a chance for friendship, belonging, and usefulness. Who wouldn't fall in love with such a character, be they girl, boy, child, teen, adult, or grandmother?
I think the Serafina books are true cross-over tales that anyone who appreciates a good, sometimes scary fantasy will enjoy. There's an American history lesson here, and a respect for local legend and identity. I think parents (and grandparents, of course) can highly recommend both the Serafina tales (the first is "Serafina and the Black Cloak") for their favorite, somewhat intrepid, 10+ years'-old readers.
Even better, families could enjoy reading or listening to these books together!
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