Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword


Spunky, strong-willed eleven-year-old Mirka Herschberg isn’t interested in knitting lessons from her stepmother, or how-to-find-a-husband advice from her sister, or you-better-not warnings from her brother. There’s only one thing she does want: to fight dragons!

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...

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Spunky, strong-willed eleven-year-old Mirka Herschberg isn’t interested in knitting lessons from her stepmother, or how-to-find-a-husband advice from her sister, or you-better-not warnings from her brother. There’s only one thing she does want: to fight dragons!

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

  • Sydney Taylor Award
  • Eisner nomination
  • Harvey nomination
  • Ignatz nomination
  • Nebula nomination

"Utterly ingenious." —Kirkus, starred review

"Withouth a doubt, the best graphic novel of 2010 for kids. Bar None."—School Library Journal, starred review

"A terrific story, told with skill and lots of heart."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Mirka is a spunky, emotionally realistic, and fun heroine."—Booklist, starred review

"Sequel, please!"—Horn Book Magazine

Winner of the 2011 Sydney Taylor Award for Older Readers

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Spunky Mirka wants to be a dragon-slayer, but everyone in the small Orthodox Jewish community of Hereville is against it. When a witch and a talking pig turn up in the woods near home, Mirka can’t help getting involved, much to the dismay of her seven sisters, brother, and argumentative stepmother. The book brings new material to the original Web comic, completed in 2008, allowing Deutsch to make a great comic even better. His expressive, surprising drawings give life to Mirka’s quest and to the unusual and genuine relationships she has with family members and magical creatures. Deutsch weaves in information about Shabbos, phrases in Yiddish (translated at the bottom of the page), illustrations of the different looks (rebel, pious, popular) girls create with the white shirts and long black skirts they wear--and all of it is lively and engaging. Fantastical elements mesh perfectly with the deep emotional heart of Mirka’s story. “I live in the family your mother made, surrounded by her children and under her roof,” Mirka’s intelligent, prickly, loving stepmother tells her, in one poignant scene. This is a terrific story, told with skill and lots of heart, that readers of all ages will enjoy. Ages 8-12. (Nov.)
Children's Literature - Kathie M. Josephs
How exciting! A wonderful story about an Orthodox Jewish girl who fights dragons. Her stepmother, Hashem, believes in teaching the arts that she feels every woman should know, like knitting. Obviously, this is not how an eleven-year-old girl wants to spend her day. There is only one thing that Mirka want to do and that is fight dragons. Of course, there are no dragons around Hereville, so Mirka uses her talents to stand up to bullies. She encounters a very large pig which she fends off and finally, something very unexpected happens. A mysterious witch challenges Mirka. If she can outwit a giant troll who has a dragon-slaying sword, Mirka will be given the sword. Wow! What an opportunity! This wonderful story is written in graphic novel style, ideal for a reluctant reader. This book is a mixture of fantasy, adventure, humor, and cultural traditions. This book is perfect for both a personal library and a classroom library. Preteens will enjoy this book and will be wanting more. It is well written, reads easily, and I learned what the three braids of the challah symbolize: truth, justice, and peace. These wonderful facts are found throughout the book. Reviewer: Kathie M. Josephs
Library Journal
Eleven-year-old Mirka wants to fight dragons, but she's a girl, living in an Orthodox Jewish community. Regardless, she stands up to local bullies, fights a talking pig, and outwits a troll to win a dragon-slaying sword. The sword's a McGuffin, though; Mirka's prize weapon, hard-won, relates more to chutzpah and cunning than hardware. This expanded web comic is described as "a delightful mix of fantasy, adventure, cultural traditions, and preteen commotion."

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—To the delight of his online followers, Deutsch's popular web comic featuring "Yet another troll-fighting 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl" is now available in print. Mirka is the heroine that girlhood dreams are made of: questioning and smart and willing to take on the world. She constantly battles wits with her stepmother, Fruma, whose argumentative nature and sharp nose conceal a warm and caring nature. Readers view the image of Mirka's deceased mother, who continues to play an influential role in her life. The child, stuck at home with knitting needles, longs to wield a sword and do battle with dragons. Instead she finds herself caught in a battle of wills with a talking pig. That's right: scenes of an Orthodox Jew with a pig add to the humor. The story is a captivating mixture of fantasy and a realistic look at a culture. The girl encounters both a mind-reading witch and a multilingual troll in her quest for a sword with which to fight dragons. Yiddish language and Jewish customs are an essential part of the story and provide excellent bedrock to the tale without overwhelming it. Mirka outwits the troll and obtains the sword, bringing the story to a satisfying conclusion. However, there is more to tell and it is obvious that further adventures await this young heroine. The illustrations are done in a monochromatic palette, with a color change from a warm earthy orange/cream for daytime scenes to a cool lavender/blue for the night scene. With engaging characters and delightful art, Hereville is pure enchantment.—Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
Kirkus Reviews

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)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781419706196
  • Publisher: Amulet Books
  • Publication date: 10/1/2012
  • Series: Hereville Series
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 395,926
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Barry Deutsch attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and Portland State University. He won the national Charles M. Schulz Award for Best College Cartoonist in 2000 and was nominated for the 2008 Russ Manning Award for Promising Newcomer. He lives in Portland, Oregon. Visit him online at

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 7, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    A great girl-centered graphic novel!

    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!

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