My oldest daughter is almost seven years old, and she loves graphic novels. She is a strong reader, but she was not always interested in chapter books. Her kindergarten teacher introduced her to the Babymouse series, and she fell in love with the genre. We are very lucky that our town library has a large selection of graphic novels, and we have also ventured out to neighboring towns to check out their graphic novels as well.
Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword is a graphic novel by Barry Deutsch. It is subtitled, “Yet Another Troll-Fighting 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl”. Mirka lives with her father, stepmother, and assorted siblings in an Orthodox enclave. Mirka is so sheltered that she does not recognize a pig when she encounters one in the woods. The pig is upset because Mirka stole from its garden, and it does everything that it can to make her life miserable. But when Mirka intervenes and rescues the pig from boys who are tormenting it, the witch who owns the pig offers a reward: there is a sword in Hereville, but Mirka must defeat the troll who guards the sword. Does Mirka have what it takes to fight a troll?
Deutsch uses many Yidish expressions and phrases in his book, but he is kind enough to provide a translation at the bottom of the page. Familiarity with the Orthodox culture will help the reader, but it is not mandatory. The story unfolds naturally, and Deutsch is an informative tour guide as he shows the reader a rather unique lifestyle. I especially enjoyed the illustration of the “types” of Orthodox schoolgirls: the frum (pious) girl, the rebel, and the popular girl.
Hereville is a very clever book. The first two pages contained a debate between Mirka and her stepmother that brought up the philosophies of free will and preordination. This intellectual trend continues throughout the book. I don’t want to give away the ending, but when Mirka does fight the troll, she doesn’t use weapons.
The illustrations are rendered in a rather realistic style. The illustrations are enhanced by the use of colored pages- yellow for daytime scenes and then blue for nighttime scenes. The body language and facial expressions are some of the best I have seen in graphic novels.
My daughter and I both enjoyed Hereville. She thought it was very funny, and I appreciated the intellectual debates. If you are looking for a graphic novel that appeals to children and adults, this one is just delightful. There is one sequel, and a third book in the series coming out later this year! If you’re interested in checking out Hereville, you can find it here: