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Granted, no dragons have been breathing fire around Hereville, the Orthodox Jewish community where Mirka lives, but that doesn’t stop the plucky girl from honing her skills. She fearlessly stands up to local bullies. She...
Granted, no dragons have been breathing fire around Hereville, the Orthodox Jewish community where Mirka lives, but that doesn’t stop the plucky girl from honing her skills. She fearlessly stands up to local bullies. She battles a very large, very menacing pig. And she boldly accepts a challenge from a mysterious witch, a challenge that could bring Mirka her heart’s desire: a dragon-slaying sword! All she has to do is find—and outwit—the giant troll who’s got it!
A delightful mix of fantasy, adventure, cultural traditions, and preteen commotion, Hereville will captivate middle-school readers with its exciting visuals and entertaining new heroine.
Accolades and Praise for Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword
Winner of the 2011 Sydney Taylor Award for Older Readers
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Like all 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girls, ebullient Mirka must face a six-armed troll to avoid becoming his dinner and obtain a dragon-slaying sword--wait, what? This utterly ingenious graphic novel spins the darling yarn of Mirka, who finds tasks like knitting dull and tedious. She keeps herself amused while stitching by conversing with her stepmother, Fruma, a top-notch debater who can adeptly argue her way out of any dispute. A magical encounter leads Mirka to discover a witch who sends her on a quest to acquire a sword perfect for a fledgling dragon-slayer, just the role Mirka envisions for herself. When Mirka must battle a fierce troll, the skills she's learned from Fruma prove to be not so entirely useless. Deutsch creates a beautiful, detail-rich world with a muted, ethereal palette that masterfully blends faith and fantasy with astounding harmony. Each page conveys fluid motion through his panel layout and text-bubble placement; readers can easily grasp and empathize with Mirka's feelings. Undoubtedly one of the cleverest graphic novels of the year; let's hope this isn't the last of Mirka. (Graphic fantasy. 10-14)
Deutsch's illustrations and text compliment each other beautifully, speeding things up in suspenseful moments and slowing things down when Mirka is doing the same. Part of this may be due to the subdued colors (most of the book is in shades of tan, with nighttime scenes in blues and purples) which allow the text and images to blend well together. But I think the real reason I was able to get into this in a way that rarely happens for me with graphic novels is that it's based on a comic, and you can tell. Deutsch makes the text part of the picture. It's not all POWs like in a superhero comic, but it's all still integrated, making it very easy to read.
Mirka lives with her father, step-mother, brother and 7(!) sisters in Hereville, an insular Orthodox Jewish community. Throughout the book there are some things about Orthodox life that are explained to the reader, such as the importance of the Shabbos and the differences between rebel, pious, and popular Orthodox girls. Yiddish words used in the text are also defined in footnotes on each applicable page. Still, for the most part, Deutsch forgoes the explanations of or about the Orthodox faith or lifestyle and instead shows them in action through Mirka. For example, she never hits the older boys who are bullying her brother with her hands, but with sticks and rocks (it's warranted and not violent). Later one warns her that the rules forbidding unmarried people of the opposite sex to touch each other will not save her from retribution (p68).
But rather than being a book all about an Orthodox Jewish girl, Hereville is primarily a book about a young girl who wants to slay dragons and meets a witch. Mirka's encounters with the witch (and her pig and the troll) are satisfyingly creepy without being too scary, and Mirka's over the top bravery and rash judgment fail her a couple of times. She has fights with her siblings, she sticks up for her little brother, she bonds with her step-mother. Mirka is just a normal girl with some adventurous dreams and aspirations.
Book source: This was a wonderful Christmas present!