Publisher’s Weekly has posted their starred review of Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite. (Note: some spoilers ahead, although not more than you’d get from reading the back cover.)
Eleven-year-old Mirka Herschberg is as disheveled, prickly, competitive, and impulsive as ever in this companion to Deutsch’s Hereville (2010). She’s both a fish out of water (she dreams of being a sword-wielding dragon slayer) and committed to her Orthodox Jewish faith, family, and community. All of this makes her one of the most original and comically endearing heroines to come down the pike in a long time.
The meteorite in the title is actually an alien life form—dubbed “Metty”—that becomes Mirka’s reverse doppelganger: a too-good-to-be true twin who’s not only neater, defter at dispatching bullies, and better at basketball than Mirka, but also determined to permanently displace her. With unexpectedly effective help from Mirka’s family (who are savvier and more accepting than Mirka realizes), her messy personality triumphs over perfection.
The drably handsome olive and peach palette provides visual cohesion—an anchor that allows Deutsch’s extravagantly chronicled emotions to fly high—while simultaneously making the story’s extraterrestrial elements and scenes (colored in bold yellows and blues) all the more magical and alien by contrast.
Information about buying Hereville books can be found here.
From the Jewish Journal’s article on “Books that make perfect Chanukah gifts“:
Those looking for a gift for kids who like comics and adventure stories can’t go wrong with “Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite” (Amulet) by author/illustrator Barry Deutsch. This highly anticipated sequel to the 2010 Sydney Taylor Award-winning graphic novel has nothing to do with the holiday of Chanukah, but it would certainly make a fabulous gift. [...]
Kids will love the zany plot and the brilliance of the art that proves superior at conveying typical childhood emotions with great empathy. What a treat to have Mirka back! Parents and relatives of 9- to 12-year-olds of any denomination who like comics, reading or action surely won’t go wrong by picking up the first two volumes of this witty and popular new series for middle-grade readers.
Thank you, Lisa Silverman!
Although I always find it a bit odd that Hereville is said to be for “9- to 12-year-olds,” since I’m trying to create an adventure comic book that I’d enjoy were I the reader. Apparently I’m very immature for someone in his forties. (Not exactly news).
You can find information about buying both Hereville books here.
Nice article about Hereville in the Jewish Daily Forward, one of the preeminent Jewish publications in the USA. Here’s a quote from the article:
Mirka’s life as a Hasidic Jew is a fundamental part of her character, but no superfluous attention is called to her religion.
“I definitely don’t want to write a textbook, but painlessly without lecturing people, give readers the impression of how Mirka’s life feels to Mirka,” Deutsch explained.
One of the most effective ways he accomplishes this is with the inclusion of Shabbat in the story.
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Immediately after being charged with her quest, rather than set out, Mirka rushes home to celebrate Shabbat. For the next nine pages the action of the book is completely halted and the Sabbath is observed; its traditions described in detail. “The reason I have the story line pretty much stop dead and then pick up like snap when Shabbos is over,” Deutsch explained, “is because you’re supposed to put away your weekday concerns and not let them interfere with Shabbos, and I thought it was the most direct way of communicating that to the reader.”
“It’s a break from the other things going on and hopefully a really joyful break because of how special Shabbos time is to Mirka.”
Mirka’s sense of religious duty and the joy she takes in it, combined with her adventure-seeking personality, makes her a compelling character in children’s literature.
The catch line on “Hereville”’s cover reads, “Yet Another Troll-Fighting 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl.” Though meant to be tongue-in-cheek, in many ways Deutsch’s character is just that.
By normalizing the rhythm and values of Jewish life, rather than singling them out as a topic for discussion, he manages to make Mirka just another adventure seeking pre-teen … who just so happens to be Jewish.
Read the whole article here.
Many thanks to Laurie Kamens, the author of the article, who was a delight to talk to.
Bank Street College of Education Children’s Book Committee has released its annual Best Children’s Books Of The Year list. I’m happy to say that not only is Hereville on the list, it’s one of the relatively few to receive a starred listing, for “outstanding merit.”
Alas, Hereville has been knocked out of the SLJ Battle of the Kid’s Books! Congratulations to Kathi Appelt’s Keeper, which won the round.
It’s hard for me to feel bad about this, though. For one thing, Keeper sounds like a terrific book (and I intend to read it). For another, Hereville was one of only 16 books published in 2010 — out of the tens of thousands of kids books published in a year — to be selected to participate in the Battle at all.
And finally, the judge for this round, Susan Patron, had this to say about Hereville:
Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, a graphic novel by Barry Deutsch, must be the only book ever whose outside front cover made me laugh. “Yet Another Troll-Fighting 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl,” it proclaims. Thick, shiny, paper painted in shades of coral, brown, black and white—changing to deep purples and grays in the scary night scenes—feel silky to the touch. Every page is vibrant with energetic pictures, dialogue, sound effects—and extremely minimal exposition.
The story plays with genres, tilting them on their sides; using incongruity, it skewers conventions. Seemingly we are in the middle of a Hansel and Gretel pastiche, a fairy tale, in which the characters sprinkle their dialogue with Yiddish words, “A klog iz mir: Woe is me!” as well as expressions like “Yaaaah!” ”Mumph!” and “Aaak!” Mirka, one daughter in a large family of sibs and step-sibs, rebels against the traditional role expected of her in the Orthodox Jewish community of Hereville. Rather than learning such “womanly arts” as knitting, she wants to fight dragons. There is lots of very clever stuff here: visual jokes such as an illustration contained within an exclamation point, table legs morphing into trees, and a deliciously horrid troll.
Wit and irony also abound in the text: a monster pig eats Mirka’s homework, Mirka and her clever, loving stepmother engage in wonderfully funny debates, and some Orthodox traditions are gently poked fun at (“preparing for all that non-working [on Shabbos] takes a lot of work!” and “In Hereville, kids aren’t allowed to have non-Jewish books. So Mirka keeps hers hidden”). I was hugely entertained, even as one tender scene brought tears to my eyes.
How can I possibly feel bad about that?
(Info about purchasing Hereville can be found here.)
The Comic Book Of The Month podcast has released an episode focused on Hereville. That’s right, over an hour of people discussing Hereville! How can you miss out on that?
Seriously, I enjoyed their discussion and thought they had some good observations.
Hereville was reviewed on Alyssa Rosenberg’s blog, a blog I’ve been reading for fun since way before Hereville came out! That’s always extra-neat to read.
Two things I thought were neat about Alyssa’s review:
1) The Sondheim reference (I’m a huge Sondheim fanboy).
2) That she didn’t even mention that it’s in comics! The review is all about the story.
Unshelved — which is a huge webcomic for librarians — is featuring Hereville today. They do a visual review sort of thing, rather than the usual prose review, so it’s really neat. Thanks, Unshelved!
There’s an article about Hereville in the Huffington Post!
This is the article Bob Smietana of the Religion News Service wrote. Very cool!
Here’s a bit from the article:
Ten-year-old Shira Acklin from the Temple, a Reform Jewish congregation in Nashville, agrees. She’s a fan of the Harry Potter books, and is also a big fan of Mirka.
“I like that the girl is the star — her brother is there but he’s not the star. She is,” Acklin said.
Adventure stories like Mirka’s are rare among Jewish kids’ books, said Heidi Estrin, library director at Congregation B’nai Israel, in Boca Raton, Fla.
Many Jewish books for kids focus on serious topics, like anti-Semitism, or teaching religious topics. If the books include humor, said Estrin, it’s often aimed at parents, not kids.
Not so with Hereville.
“It’s lighthearted in a way that kids can relate to,” said Estrin, who runs The Book of Life, a podcast about Jewish books. “The plot had nothing to do with prejudice — it’s about a girl who wants to fight dragons.”
Read the rest at Huffpo. Thanks, Bob!
(Oh, and if you’re interested in buying a copy of Hereville, the info is here.)
P.S. Check out the comments for a mini-debate between about if an atheist should be writing a religious protagonist.