cover image Serafina and the Black Cloak

Serafina and the Black Cloak

Robert Beatty, read by Cassandra Campbell. Listening Library, , unabridged, 7 CDs, 8.5 hrs., $45 ISBN 978-1-101-91709-1

Beatty’s suspenseful debut opens in 1899 in Asheville, N.C., at the historic Biltmore Estate. Twelve-year-old Serafina and her father secretly live in the basement of the Biltmore, where he keeps the mansion’s many mechanisms in working order. One night while hunting rats, Serafina witnesses a young girl getting swallowed up by a black cloak worn by a mysterious man. Soon other children who are visiting the mansion begin to disappear, and Serafina vows to fight the man and save the children. Listening to this audiobook is like hearing your favorite teacher read the class a story, switching voices and keeping everyone’s attention riveted. Voice actress Campbell’s pacing is perfect—sometimes the writing draws moments out, but she keeps everything moving along. Serafina sounds plucky and determined, with a slightly growly voice. The rich adults sound haughty and aristocratic. Her voice for the supernatural bad guy is menacing and otherworldly, with low tones and a hint of sibilance. Campbell’s Southern accents are subtle, befitting the narrative. This is a wonderfully sinister middle-grade horror story, and Campbell seems to delight in performing the creepiness. Ages 8–12. A Disney-Hyperion hardcover. (July)