Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mini-Review: Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword

by Barry Deutsch
Series: Hereville #1
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published November 1st 2010 by Amulet Books
Age Recommendation: Middle Grade

Summary (from Goodreads):
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.

As creative and unusual middle grade graphic novels go, Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword is an excellent standout. Mirka's story is engaging and different, and readers will be delighted to see her come into her own. The plot is well-written and the illustrations are fantastic. I was especially glad to see that the story was self-contained in a single volume (I have read far too many graphic novels where none of the loose ends are wrapped up for several volumes), and even within the somewhat restrictive graphic novel format, Deutsch was able to show Mirka's growth as a character and connect her journey to itself in a larger way.

The story is very different from everything else I have read in the genre, mostly set apart by Mirka's unique community and family. Everyone in Hereville is orthodox Jewish (as referenced by the awesome subtitle "Yet another troll-fighting 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl"), and the graphic novel format is excellent at showing the reader around this fictionalized community that still adheres to very real traditions.

Overall Thoughts: The story was very clever, with great characters, an interesting plot, and engaging illustrations. I would happily hand this to a middle schooler (girl or boy) looking for a good graphic novel. I'd never heard of it outside of the one author interview I found, and it definitely deserves a larger audience. I recommend giving Mirka a try.

I found this trailer on the author's website, and I liked that it gave an example of the illustrations. Enjoy!

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