This month we are featuring Ann E. Burg and her YA novel-in-verse, Serafina’s Promise (ages 10 and up). This is her second novel-in-verse after the highly acclaimed All the Broken Pieces.
Burg’s parents were artists, thus her childhood was enriched with music and poetry, setting up a foundation for her creative form of writing. She started exploring her local libraries at a young age, and knew that she wanted to write books since she was four years old. Burg worked as an English teacher for ten years before shifting the majority of her attention to writing novels, though she wrote many poems and stories before her first publication in 2003.
Burg wrote Serafina’s Promise after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. She was inspired to write this story after coming across a picture of a small girl crying during the aftermath of the earthquake. She wanted to explore the reality for people in Haiti. As she states in an article by The Combined Book Exhibit “I was saddened and also disappointed in myself to know that I knew so little about Haiti and so like most Americans I was glued to the television screen and found myself reading lots of articles, discovering what a beautiful place, and what a beautiful people the Haitian people are.”
Burg has expressed that Serafina’s story and the impoverished conditions of her setting were “so much different than anything that I’ve ever been exposed to.” The strength and resilience that she saw in Haitian children inspired her to portray a protagonist who fights for her dream of becoming a doctor, in spite of all the obstacles she faces.
In a guest post for Cynthia Leitich Smith’s blog Cynsations, Burg describes how she collects her research in the form of stories, objects, and images in an old pot of hers that represents a recipe for her writing. For Serafina’s Promise she included the following “You beat the drums and you dance again is my favorite Haitian proverb, one that best captures the spirit of the Haitian people. It’s a proverb which continually rose to the top of my simmering pot and became the defining ingredient in my verse novel, Serafina’s Promise.”
Here are some resources to learn more about the author and read reviews of the book.