Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, by Barry Deutsch (ages 9 - 12)

Take a stubborn, funny girl who isn't afraid to stand up for herself, add in a quest for a powerful sword and a world where magic is part of the everyday fabric of life and you have a book that kids in my library will eat up. Add into this mix a graphic novel with clean lines, engaging characters and a bit of whimsy and it's got a line waiting for it. But, Barry Deutsch takes these elements and throws in unexpected twists in his graphic novel Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword. Mirka is an Orthodox Jewish girl who lives with her large family and dreams of fighting trolls and dragons and living a larger live. It's an unusual, fascinating book that kids who like something a little different will eat up.
Hereville: How Mirka Got Her SwordHereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword
by Barry Deutsch
NY: Amulet Books, 2010
ages 9 - 12
available on Amazon and at your local library
Eleven year old Mirka dreams of living a swash-buckling life of adventure. But her family and friends in the Jewish Orthodox town of Hereville keep telling her that she has to be realistic, learn how to knit, do her chores and school work, and act like a proper young girl. But when she steals a single grape from a witch's enchanted pig, life changes for her. The pig pursues her, but Mirka uses her wits and courage to defeat this very non-Jewish foe.

As one student told me, "It's a hard read - it's pretty complicated, but I found it really interesting that I related to someone from such a different culture. If you want to connect with Mirka, you have to work harder than most books." Deutsch weaves elements of Orthodox life throughout this fantasy adventure. Mirka wears long skirts and long-sleeved white blouses. Yiddish idioms and phrases are used throughout, with English translations at the bottom. And yet, Mirka has so many character traits that kids relate to. She's brave and stubborn, she's intelligent and funny, and while her family drives her nuts, she really loves them.

On the other hand, this isn't the book for everyone. Some students at my library have found Mirka a bit too hard to connect to, her world a bit too different from ones they know. But it might be something more - that students like their worlds either fully in the fantasy realm, or fully based in reality. Mirka's world is one where magic is just a part of their everyday lives.

Kids who like this might also enjoy Rapunzel's Revenge and Calamity Jack, two graphic novels by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale. These feature swash-buckling heroines out to prove themselves.

The review copy came from our school library collection. Many thanks to students, especially Alice, at Emerson for their ideas and feedback. They constantly amaze me with their insights, passion and clarity of ideas. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.


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