Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword
I swear I did not seek this book out based on my love and adoration for the book Hush. I swear on everything holy. It just happens to be another book about an Orthodox Jewish girl. This one, however, has the imagination that rivals J. K. Rowling. And it’s an award winning graphic novel (it was named one of the 2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens).
Mirka lives in Hereville – an Orthodox Jewish community – with her family: her father, her stepmother and her many siblings. She has an amazing imagination and has always dreamed of fighting monsters – she even hides a book about monsters under her bed (because they live in an Orthodox community, they aren’t supposed to have or read non-Jewish books). One day when she gets lost on the way to school, she comes across a peculiar house and sees a witch and angers a very large talking pig. The pig starts to follow her and steal her homework, knocking her over and creating havoc in her world. When she continually tells people that it’s the pig’s fault, no one believes her. She devises a plan to get the pig to leave her alone only to have to save the pig shortly thereafter. The witch appears and offers her a reward, which sends her on a quest to fight and defeat a troll. The only person who can help her fight the troll is her stepmother, Fruma, a woman Mirka adores and fears all at once.
While I found the story extremely entertaining, I don’t know that students will be as drawn to it as I was. I’ve tried finding out as much as I can about the author because I’m curious as to what would make him write a book about Orthodox Jews. But I couldn’t make the connection – he doesn’t mention being Jewish and doesn’t look Orthodox. He is, however terribly funny and extremely sarcastic – something that I enjoy, but I’m not sure students will identify with. I think Deutsch intends to portray Orthodox Jewish customs respectfully, but it comes across as challenging if not a bit judgmental. Maybe he simply intends to get people thinking about the customs in their own personal “Hereville”. Whatever his intention, I don’t know that it will come across to middle and high school students. I think they might miss the subtlety, and I definitely think they will be turned off by all of the un-translated Yiddish phrases. If he’d included a glossary at the end so that people would know why Zindel says talking to Mirka is like “red tsu der vant” (red’ zu der Wand or talking to the wall). The only reason I enjoyed some of his jokes is because I speak German and could figure out the Yiddish.
I can see why reviewers loved the book; I’m just not convinced that reviewer enjoyment will translate to student enjoyment. But that’s the joy of books – ten people read a book and you get ten different opinions!
Here are some other reviews of Hereville: