At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna Draper Carlson reviews Hereville, and also declares it one of the best comics of 2010. Woo!
The characters are simple, dot eyes and line noses, but always in motion, always expressing something with their arms and faces. Deutsch’s work is a little stiff when it comes to the most active sequences — when one person chases another early on, they look like they’re speed-walking instead of running after each other — but the real meat of the story is in moments, often conversational.
The story-telling is simple and straightforward, so as not to get in the way of the reader taking in the details of Mirka’s life and dreams. (Although at various important moments, the panel grid changes to highlight the mood or emphasize particular visuals.) The challenge comes in the language, with Yiddish words used frequently and translated at the bottom of the page. It adds to the fable-like feeling, with words unfamiliar to many readers providing an exotic overlay.
I’m still a bit uncomfortable with aspects of Mirka’s life — the way the kids are separated boys and girls at school, the importance of the family reputation so the girls’ parents can find them a good husband — but in personality, she’s full of imagination and she’s fearless. She stands up to bullies, even if she has to hide her actions from those who think it’s not suitable for a girl to do. I hope those qualities aren’t drummed out of her as she grows older. That we see women with strong minds who value intelligence (of all kinds) gives hope.
Read the whole review here. Thanks, Johanna!
Not Just For Kids reviews Hereville:
Everything I knew previously about Orthodox Judaism I learned from Chaim Potok, so I felt reasonably well-armed to absorb any cultural differences which I might encounter in the reading. But truthfully, no previous knowledge is necessary to enjoy the book, and not just because Mirka is a feisty, headstrong girl, and feisty, headstrong girls are a staple of childrens’ literature whatever the culture. Let us not underestimate the importance of Mirka’s heritage–this story works so well because she is an Orthodox Jewish girl. But while this book provides a window on Orthodox Jewish life, that’s not what it is about. Nor, despite some angsty moments, is it about a tween trying to break free from a life that everyone but an Orthodox Jew would find unusual. You could call it an adventure book because there is lots of adventure–fast-paced, hair-raising, breath-taking adventure–contained in these pages. Then again, it is also a family drama, as readers meet Mirka and her rather large blended family. Witches, trolls, and dragons are discussed with a completely straight face, so in some ways the book is a fantasy. And last, but not least, it is FUNNY!
Visit Not Just For Kids to read the rest.
School Library Journal’s 2011 Battle of the Kids Books is on, and Hereville is one of just 16 contenders!
I have no expectation of winning, but I’m pretty thrilled to be in this company…
I’m so far behind on linking to blogs that have reviewed Hereville! But here’s a few more.
Erica Friedman at Okazu reviewed Hereville – which was especially kind of her, because that’s a blog which specializes in manga!
I can’t think of a better book for a young me. 11-year old Mirka would have been a fine companion in my desire for adventure and magic and a chance to use my wit against the odds. If you know a young girl with an open mind, and interest in folk tales and a desire for a sword, Hereville would make a terrific, totally-not-what-they-expected gift.
Stacey, a Brooklyn librarian blogging at Good Books And The Random Movie, writes:
Deutsch has created a graphic novel that explains about Judaism through this beautiful tale of courage and finding ones place in the world. The illustrations are beautiful and the Yiddish words are defined at the bottom of each page. A great read for Jews, fans of graphic novels, fans of strong female protagonists, and anyone who has even wanted to fight dragons.
And the reviewer at the Provo City Library Children’s Book Review writes:
A delightful yarn (you’ll excuse the expression) sprinkled liberally with Yiddish expressions, Jewish folk and religious lore, and memorable, nuanced characters, well-drawn and well-spoken.
Over at Muddy Puddle Musings (interesting name!), Chris writes:
The characters, including a huge talking pig, a witch that lives in a nearby house just discovered, and a knitting troll are wonderful. Fresh, believable, fun, and funny. Adventurous, animated, well-illustrated, clear…a wonderful book!
And Book Aunt (so many book bloggers have really neat blog names!) writes:
Watch for the ways Mirka’s culture is interwoven with the plot. Especially keep an eye out for knitting, not to mention Mirka’s logic, which she apparently learned at her stepmother’s knee. Aside from his obvious creativity, Deutsch’s biggest success is the character of Mirka, who is very real and likable. Now, your average kid may not reach for Hereville, and I do think young readers would benefit from a little intro about Orthodox Judaism before launching into this book, but then they’ll discover a great read.
Thanks to all the bloggers and librarians who have been kind enough to recommend Hereville. I know that Hereville’s kind of a weird book, and if it’s finding an audience it’s only because people (especially librarians!) have been willing to recommend it.
I love librarians! So I’m happy every time I read a positive review of Hereville on a librarian’s blog (and I haven’t seen any negative ones yet, thankfully).
Library Mama, who is as you might guess a librarian and mother, writes:
The line on the cover of this winning graphic novel sums it up nicely: “Yet another troll-fighting 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl.” Mirka, the 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl, is somewhere towards the bottom middle in age in a large blended family (helpfully for the character count, only those closest in age to Mirka are introduced). She longs to fight dragons and resents her mostly kind if ugly stepmother’s attempts to teach her to knit. It’s sweet family life sprinkled with Yiddish, until Mirka sees a witch in the forest and starts being chased by her talking pig. The art sets just the right tone between serious and funny, and the story is a warm-hearted adventure with a good sense of humor. I fell hard for Mirka, and loved the details of Jewish mythology and Orthodox life. I’ve been toting this one around with me, and everyone I’ve shown it to has been enchanted. I’d say it’s ideal for about third grade up, and I’m really hoping for a sequel where Mirka gets to use her new sword.
I am very far behind on linking to blogs that have mentioned Hereville! I’ll catch up someday.
Shelf Employed, a cleverly-named blog written by a children’s librarian, discovered Hereville because of the Sydney Taylor Award — but Hereville wasn’t what they expected.
I expected a heavy, perhaps historical fiction, story of the Jewish experience. What I found instead, was a modern, graphic novel, fairytale adventure, offering a prolonged peek into a very insular community – that of the Orthodox Jew. Through Mirka, the book’s lively and determined protagonist, the reader sees a young girl who, despite the tenets of her faith that keep her apart from secular and non-Orthodox society, is much like any other young girl – willful and curious, tempered with love for her family and friends, and a grudging respect for her elders.
I admire writers who can try to do things like the “story of the Jewish experience.” But boy, is that not something I’d ever attempt! I like my stories to have a much smaller scale than that.
Anyway, there’s much more to the review at Shelf Employed, but you need to go over there to read it.
There’s been no greater booster of Hereville than comics journalist Brigid Alverson, who is interviewed here by Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter. Brigid — who has interviewed me more than once, and who I like a lot — was nice enough to mention Hereville:
SPURGEON: Can you talk for a bit about one or two of the comics you thought were great this year? What makes a comic great as opposed to merely good? Is there something that tends to connect great works in comics in your mind?
ALVERSON: A great comic crosses over a boundary in my brain so that I’m not just reading it, I’m experiencing it on some deeper level. Hereville was the best example of that, and I feel like a broken record because I talk about it a lot, but it really was the standout comic for me. It has to do with the way that the creator, Barry Deutsch, creates a world and very quickly draws you into it, so you are getting inside the characters’ heads. There’s a scene in there where the main character, who is 11, is solving a math problem, and as I read it, I was solving it in the same way. Many of the sequences were like that. It’s as if I hallucinated this book rather than just reading it.
Wow! Reading that made my day. Thanks, Brigid. (And click through to read the entire interview — she talks about lots of stuff other than Hereville!)
(Information about buying your own copy of Hereville can be found here.)
The terrifically-named “Please Don’t Read This Book!” blog has a review of Hereville! (I’m a bit late in posting about this, because… well, to tell you the truth, I’m just like that.)
The format is very neat — it’s sort of a dialog between two bloggers. Here’s a bit that I was particularly fond of:
I have a confession to make. Even if I’d never read and enjoyed a single graphic novel, I would’ve suggested that we consider HEREVILLE. Why? Because of its tagline: “Yet Another Troll-Fighting 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl.” Who could resist that? Even my seventy-five-year-old businessman of a father–who is *never* tempted by children’s literature–picked HEREVILLE up off my coffee table when he saw that tagline. And started reading. And didn’t stop until he’d finished–at which point he proclaimed it marvelous! I so enjoyed that moment.
Awesome! Please click through to read the rest of their review (which did include some criticism, by the way — in particular, they found the ending rather abrupt).
Thanks to Tanya of Books4yourkids.com for this terrific article about Hereville. I’m very glad to be recommended by Books4yourkids, and had a really fun interview with Tanya when she was prepping to write the article.
Thanks to Blam’s Blog for this nice review of Hereville. It’s a nice review that reproduces plenty of art, but I have to admit my favorite thing about this is the title of the blog post: Braids Of Glory. That may be my favorite title of any Hereville review so far!