Monday, December 19, 2011

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch

Yet another troll-fighting 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch
Series: First in the Hereville series
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Fantasy
Publisher: Amulet Books, 2010
From: Local library
Here's a 15-page preview from Barry Deutsch

Story: Mirka's goal in life is to fight dragons, but instead her stepmother makes her learn "womanly arts" like knitting. One day while outsmarting bullies, Mirka finds a strange house in the forest. Afterwards, an evil pig starts following Mirka and won't go away. How can she find a sword when she can't even keep her homework safe?

Thoughts: I picked up this book because of its cover, and I'm glad I did! Mirka is an excellent heroine who's smart and brave yet still has things to learn. I especially liked Mirka's step-mother who's a little wicked, but in a good way. The action stops a couple of times to describe Mirka's Orthadox school, her classmates, and the Saturday Shabbos celebration. These parts got a little teachy as the narrator talks directly to the reader, but the action soon picks up again. My favorite part was the visual description of Mirka's word problems, and Mirka's solutions. Mirka's so fun I could have read a whole book just of her doing math!

The art is grayscale on an orange background. I love this style. The mostly black and white drawings let the action jump right out, while the addition of one color allows for unexpected touches. I especially liked Mirka's striped socks. When it turns to night, the background switches to blue, giving the perfect midnight feel. It's such a great effect, the perfect compromise between the visual interest of color and clarity of black and white.

Final thoughts: A great girl adventure with a window into Orthodox Jewish life for middle grade readers or anyone who had to resort to their brain because they didn't have a sword handy. The second book in the series is in the works. Can't wait!

Grade: 5 out of 5

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