Serefina under the Circumstances

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Serefina has an imagination as vivid as clear blue sky. She also has a problem keeping secrets under certain circumstances. And you can bet a combination thereof will have hilarious results when the "circumstances" involve a surprise birthday party for little brother Buster! Young readers will see more than a little of themselves in Serefina -- because there's nothing more tantalizing than guarding (and telling!) a piece of news. Phyllis Theroux's ebullient text and Marjorie Priceman's buoyant, offbeat paintings ...
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Overview

Serefina has an imagination as vivid as clear blue sky. She also has a problem keeping secrets under certain circumstances. And you can bet a combination thereof will have hilarious results when the "circumstances" involve a surprise birthday party for little brother Buster! Young readers will see more than a little of themselves in Serefina -- because there's nothing more tantalizing than guarding (and telling!) a piece of news. Phyllis Theroux's ebullient text and Marjorie Priceman's buoyant, offbeat paintings make for an altogether entertaining, totally unique, intergenerational story.

Serefina's imagination makes her destined for greatness, according to her grandmother, but sometimes it leads her into trouble as well.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A girl's penchant for embellishing tales risks landing her in hot water in this zippy picture book. Serefina and her grandmother enjoy trading catchy phrases like "I'm counting on you," ("Up to one million," is Serefina's response) and "I'm locking my lips and throwing away the key" ("Don't go looking for that key in the bushes later on," comes Grandma's rejoinder). But when Grandma asks Serefina to keep a secret, it grows bigger and bigger inside her, from a "sprout" to something gigantic, "with branches through every window and with roots snaking down staircases." Before long, Serefina blabs, and then concocts a tale to justify herself. In her picture book debut, Theroux's quirky, compelling text invites young readers to explore the fine line between being creative and actually lying. The prose mostly seems the incarnation of Serefina's own high spirits, but sometimes goes to excess with its interest in metaphor (a message in a dream "was warm and light and floated like a golden leaf upon the waters of her dreaming"). Gleefully following Theroux's lead, Priceman (Emeline at the Circus) interprets Serefina's thoughts literally: an illustration accompanying the phrase "Buster was beside himself" features a side-by-side cloned image of a boy; "refresh my memory" becomes a person's head floating in a refreshing glass of iced tea; and during the school spelling bee, Serefina sprouts antennae and a yellow-and-brown-striped body. Priceman's exuberant lines and fantastic imagery make this a high-flying journey. Ages 5-up. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Jessica Becker
Serefina is a girl with a large vocabulary and a wonderful imagination, who cannot keep a secret. Though the author uses clever imagery and plays with language, describing Serefina's brother as "beside himself" with excitement, it is the colorful and playful illustrations that create excitement. When Serefina realizes that she will have to reveal a secret to get her brother to his birthday surprise party, readers will sympathize. The story moves at a slow pace and may have limited appeal.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3 Though Serefina has notoriously loose lips, her grandmother entrusts her with a secret about her little brother's surprise birthday party because she needs the two children to dawdle on the way home from school long enough for the guests to assemble. The secret weighs heavily on Serefina's mind, and when she finds Buster crying after school, the only thing she can think of to console him is to tell all. Grandma forgives her granddaughter's blabbering since, in her youth, she was inclined toward gabbiness herself. After all, readers know from the get-go that Grandma considers Serefina "destined for greatness." Priceman's clever, colorful, and energetic gouache paintings add another dimension to this engaging story about a little girl whom readers will hope is destined for sequels. Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In this picture-book debut, Serefina is seven years old and comes, her grandmother says, "from a long line of people who are full of imagination." Serefina envisions all her ancestors dangling from a clothesline as her grandmother reminds her that an imagination is a "blessing, as long as you don't let it run away with you." When the grandmother bestows a secret upon Serefina—that her brother, Buster, is to have a surprise birthday party—it takes root, sprouts, and quickly grows so large that the child has difficulty not blurting it out. After she does just that, Serefina's story to her grandmother about why telling the secret became a life-and-death whopper (the "circumstances" of the title), the older woman is no less loving, apparently resigned to the fact that a child who is "destined for greatness" may need a little poetic license along the way. Priceman's humorous scenes embellish and extend the wordplay in the text, offering literal visual translations of words and the exaggerated effects of Serefina's imagination on daily events. Storytelling and the power of words, however, while present as themes, never overwhelm the delicately wrapped core of this piece: the tolerance and unconditional affection between the two main characters. (Picture book. 7-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688159429
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/28/1999
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.36 (w) x 11.36 (h) x 0.36 (d)

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