Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hereville - for Tween Tuesday

Tween Tuesday was started over at Green Bean Teen Queen as away to highlight awesome books for the 9-12 yr olds or Tweens. This week's book is:

Deutsch, Barry. Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword. New York: Amulet Books, 2010. Print.
[Book cover credit: librarything.com/work/8463290]

Sydney Taylor Book Award for Older Readers (2011)

Mirka is what some may call a willful child. She skips classes, doesn't care about her reputation, and is quickly learning her step-mother's art of turning any argument in her favor, regardless of logic. She also wants to be a dragon-slaying hero. With a new witch living in the woods surrounding Hereville, it looks like her dreams may come true.

I'm not a big graphic novel reader; I can usually live with or without them. When you spend a whole book just reading the text and having to remind yourself to pay attention to the pictures, it takes some of the fun out of the experience. That was not the case here. 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 (check out page 8 in this preview of the book). 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 judgement 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.

Just for extra fun, here is my favorite page as shown in the original web comic. It perfectly showcases the art of the argument that Mirka is soaking up from her step-mother. :)

Book source: This was a wonderful Christmas present!

Links to Amazon.com may be affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program. If you buy something through this link, I may receive a referral fee.


anachronist said...

A delicious comic strip with some really funny characters and not so funny message- thanks so much for your review, the page you included was so good I would love to have it this instant!

Lawral the Librarian said...

It really is cute, and I LOVE the step-mother with her all over the place logic!