Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword

Yet Another Troll-Fighting 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl

Seriously, with a tag line like that how can you not want to pick up this book?  I have been waiting to get my hands on it since it came out.  My library, which I think has a bias against graphic novels, has just received copies.  I jumped on them, or one of them, enthusiastically. 

Synopsis (From Barry Deutsch's website):
Spunky, strong-willed, eleven-year-old Mirka Hirschberg isn’t interested in knitting lessons from her step-mother, 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!

I loved every moment of my experience with this book. And it is a book you experience, you don't just read it.  I love the whole graphic novel concept but haven't had the opportunity to read many (See above, about my library's bias.  To be fair, they have quite a good collection of graphic novels.  They just aren't as on top of ordering new graphic novels as they are ordering new novels.).  Even with my limited experience, I can say that this is a work of art.  The illustrations pull you into the world of  Herevile and make you feel a part of it.  The expressiveness and unique features to each character make you feel like you know these people.  I loved Mirka and her entire family.  The text is awesome too.  You just want to root for Mirka has she pursues her dream of owning a sword and fighting dragons. 

The book also gives the reader insight into the life of an Orthodox Jewish community.  (One of my favorite pages is the one that explains how the girls are all required to wear white shirts and long dark skirts, but that doesn't mean they all dress alike.  Hilarious illustrations and explanations accompany.)  During the course of Mirka's adventurous week sixth day is a part of it and what the family does for Shabbos included.  This fits right into the flow of the story and is not at all a lecture on customs.  It is very interesting though.  There are various Yiddish phrases scattered through the dialogue (with definitions on the page).  Then there is the incident with the pig, which scares Mirka and her siblings something fierce because they've never seen one.  No need for anyone in Hereville to keep a pig after all.  What I liked most about this element is that it portrayed a character whose religion was very much a part of her identity and the identity of her family and presented it how it is.

This is a book that any person, no matter age or  gender, can find something to delight in.

For a little taste Barry Deutsch has a preview you can peruse on his website.

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