Saturday, December 14, 2013

‘Hereville’ by Barry Deutsch

Book cover for Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch. A young girl, holding a sword, balanced atop an enormous ball of yarn
Mirka’s stepmother Fruma insists that she learn to knit and continually challenges her to debates. All the while, Mirka dreams of killing dragons.

To do that she only needs a sword.

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword (Amulet Books, 2010) by Barry Deutsch is a wonderfully original graphic novel. Its independent and likeable 11-year-old girl protagonist is a fine addition to the graphic novel format.

The story is set in a modern-day Orthodox Jewish community (the Hereville of the title). In it, readers are introduced to Mirka, her family, community and traditions.

One day Mirka meets a mysterious woman, believed to be a “machashaifeh” or witch. After Mirka performs a kindness for her, the woman tells Mirka that she is in Mirka’s debt and tells Mirka where she can get a sword. There’s just one catch: the sword is guarded by a troll.

This long-time crafter enjoyed the importance that Mirka’s stepmother places upon the “womanly art” of knitting. The relationship between Mirka and Fruma is one of the best parts of this story; both are strong and independent female characters who encourage each other to think.

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