Another “best of” list — Graphic Novel Reporter’s. I’m especially thrilled to see Hereville on this list, because it’s not a specialty list — it’s not for kid’s graphic novels, or Jewish graphic novels, but simply a list of their favorite graphic novels. And the other cartoonists on the list are simply awesome!
Here’s the list’s description of Hereville:
In a word: brilliant. Barry Deutsch’s webcomic about a young girl in an Orthodox Jewish community gets wider exposure in this collection. Hopefully, as broad an audience as possible will find its way to this utterly clever book, which follows Mirka as she faces a witch, a mean pig, and a troll in an effort to win a sword…and begin her life’s mission of slaying dragons. The explanations of Jewish culture and language that run throughout the book are always helpful and never intrusive. This is another book for kids that adults will love too.
Thank you so much, Graphic Novel Reporter!
And it’s in some great company, too! Thanks, Good Comics For Kids!
The fantasy aspects of Hereville may be familiar, but Barry Deutsch’s deft treatment of the heroine’s religious heritage is not; he makes her upbringing in an Orthodox Jewish community fundamental to the story without sliding into caricature or didacticism. Crisp, evocative artwork and a memorable cast of supporting characters — including Fruma, Mirka’s wise if conventional stepmother — make Hereville a terrific read for teens and adults.
Thanks as well to Katherine Dacey, who wrote the Hereville review.
A new review, from the Association of Jewish Libraries:
Eleven-year-old Mirka has more on her mind than learning the “womanly arts” that her stepmother, Fruma, insists she acquire; she would like to slay a dragon. To fight a dragon, you need a sword and Mirka’s quest for a sword is the focus of this standout graphic novel. The bizarre adventure begins when Mirka stumbles upon a magical house in the woods in her Orthodox town, Hereville, where she sees a woman float through the air.
Eager to show it to her siblings, she convinces them to return to the house on their way home from school. While there, they discover grapes “as big as baseballs” growing in the yard of the house. Even though her sister, Gittel, or as Mirka calls her, “Little Miss Frum,” urges her not to try a grape because it would be stealing, Mirka can’t resist taking one. This innocent swipe sets off a kooky series of events that include a revenge-seeking pig and a knit-off with a troll.
Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword is spirited, witty, and above all else, fun. Mirka is a clever, headstrong, and imaginative heroine who will appeal to a wide audience. Teens who feel like they don’t fit in will have no trouble relating to her attempts to balance what is best for her family with her desire to fight dragons.
Grounded in her religious beliefs, she is willing to put her fantasies aside to celebrate Shabbos. Although she desperately would like to ask Fruma how to kill a troll, she waits until the end of Shabbos because “troll-killing was not a Shabbos thing. Once the candles were lit, she would no more have asked about it than she would have deliberately sneezed on the khale.” The illustrations in the proof used for this review were in black and white (the published version will be in color) and they strike the perfect balance of showing a realistic Orthodox community, while creating the backdrop for a fairytale. Highly recommended for all libraries.
Awesome! Thank you very much, Ms. Lurie.
The AJL was also nice enough to publish an interview with me on their blog last month.
Okay, the title is an exaggeration — in fact, the first review is a positive review, and the second review is very negative, but has positive aspects (the writer says she enjoyed Hereville and is hoping for a sequel). These are, however, the two most critical reviews of Hereville I’ve read so far, which makes them interesting!
At The Whole Megillah, reviewer Barbara Krasner wrote an enormously positive review of Hereville, saying “This is the type of book a child (or adult) could read again and again and again without an ounce of boredom.” That’s what I like hearing! But she also wonders if Orthodox readers will be offended by Hereville.
That’s something I’ve worried about quite a lot. All I can say is that I’ve tried my best to be respectful (without being lifeless), and the reactions from Orthodox readers I’ve heard have been extremely positive. However, it’s of course possible that an Orthodox reader who was offended would choose not to contact me, so my “sample” may be biased.
Barbara also wondered about my Yiddish — specifically, “is it really ‘bistu’ or is it really ‘bist du?’” Barbara thinks it should probably be two words. My answer: I don’t know! The particular Yiddish-English dictionary I consulted said “bistu,” but one thing I quickly learned while writing Hereville is that Yiddish-English dictionaries frequently disagree on how Yiddish words should be spelled in English.
At Comic Attack, reviewer Daniella Orihuela-Gruber (who usually blogs at All About Manga) wrote:
I like Hereville overall, but as a Jew myself, I felt a little uncomfortable with a number of things.
First of all, the town of Hereville is essentially a shtetl, or a small town with a completely or near-completely Jewish population. Schtetls have more or less ceased to exist after World War II. Now, there are certainly large Jewish neighborhoods in cities or towns with a majority of Jews in them, but a town that is completely ultra-Orthodox…? Where it’s actually banned to read non-Jewish books and to have pigs? Maybe in Israel. (I don’t think Hereville is in Israel. Too much forest.) Ultra-Orthodox communities are still very insular, but I’ve never seen a community this cut off to the point where the kids don’t know what a pig looks like and they’ve never met a non-Jewish person before. If this had been a pre-Holocaust shtetl, I think I’d believe the isolation and homogenized local culture.
Second is the way Mirka behaves. Yes, she is capable of her own thoughts, will stand up to whatever torments her and kick its ass, but at the same time Mirka lets her sister bully her into submission so she won’t harm her family’s reputation and her sisters become unable to find good husbands. I realize that this is where my much more liberal Jewish beliefs clash with ultra-Orthodox ones, but it’s more than the fact that I think it’s dumb for an 11-year-old to think so seriously of marriage. Either way, Mirka is forced by those she’s closest with into keeping her adventures quiet.
There’s more — head over to Comic Attack to read the full review.
I don’t think it’s wise for creators to debate with reviews, so I won’t respond to Daniella’s criticisms. But I appreciated that she took the time to read and respond to Hereville, and I hope she does like the sequel better, when it comes out.
Just a quick thank you to Fragments of Life, Omphaloskepsis, Mar Dixon at BookRabbit, and The Velveteen Rabbi for their very nice reviews of Hereville.
A quote from The Velveteen Rabbi’s review:
I love this book for a lot of reasons: because it normalizes Orthodox Jewish life (the text is full of Yiddish words, which are translated in small print at the bottom of the page) and shows charming glimpses of things like separate-gender schooling and the tasks involved in preparing for Shabbat; because Mirka is a fabulous hero, as quirky and bright as Sara Crewe or Harry Potter; because the step-mother turns out to be at least as smart as the heroine, which means awesomeness doesn’t magically evaporate at adulthood.
Thanks to all four bloggers!
It’s that time of year — the time when people put out their lists! And I’m very happy that Hereville has been included on some of those lists:
- The American Library Association’s / YALSA’s “2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens” list.
- Kirkus Reviews “Best Books For Children And Teens” lists Hereville in three categories — “Graphic Novel,” “Fantasy and Science Fiction,” and “Fiction With Great Girl Characters.”
- School Library Journal’s “Good Comics For Kids” blog includes Hereville on their “best of 2010″ list. Thanks!
- Booklist included Hereville on it’s annual “Great Graphic Novels for Teens” list. Yay!
- The New York Public Library’s annual list of 100 notable children’s books includes Hereville! (PDF file.) (And I’m in some great company, including Smile and Origami Yoda and Athena.)
- Graphic Novel Reporter’s 2010 Favorites! Thanks, GNR!
- Comic Book Resource’s Top 100 Comics of 2010! (Hereville clocks in at #44.)
- Sequential Tart, a feminist comics site, included Hereville on their “Comics We Loved” 2010-in-review list.
- Bank Street College of Education Children’s Book Committee included Hereville on its annual Best Children’s Books Of The Year list — and it’s one of the relatively few books to receive their starred listing, for “outstanding merit.”
- Shelf Awareness was nice enough to include Hereville on their “Graphic Novel Holiday Roundup.”
Deutsch’s charming and energetic story takes the form of a classic hero tale, but its hero is, as the cover declares, “Yet Another Troll-Fighting 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl.” The depiction of an Orthodox community is smart and sympathetic, and Mirka’s struggles with bullies and boring chores, as well as a stepmother who turns out to be the opposite of wicked, will ring true to many kids. The twist at the end makes us hope for a sequel.
- I feel highly honored to be included in Flashlight Worthy’s “The Best Graphic Novels of 2010″ list.
This is a truly all-ages graphic novel, with plenty to hold the interest of teenagers and adults alike. Mirka is an 11-year-old girl who is comfortable in her life in an Orthodox Jewish community except for one thing: She wants to slay dragons someday. An encounter with a belligerent pig and a witch lead her to a final showdown with a troll in a surrealistic duel for a magic sword. At the same time she is negotiating these perils, she must contend with the usual stresses of friends and family—and a stepmother who is determined to teach her to knit, no matter how much she resists. Deutsch blends elements of folklore and modern life with a deft touch, and his creative use of panels to show what Mirka is thinking and doing brings this story beyond mere narrative into the realm of literature.
Thanks to writer Brigid Alverson for that mini-review. (And isn’t “Flashlight Worthy” a great name?)
- And on Stacked – another cool blog name — Hereville is included in a list of mini-reviews:
A charming graphic novel for middle-graders about Mirka, an eleven-year-old Jewish Orthodox girl whose life goal is to fight dragons. In her quest to find a sword of her own, she disagrees with her siblings, breaks free from the standards imposed upon her by her stepmother, thwarts the wild pig who has been making her life miserable, and fights a six-legged troll. Deutsch’s illustrations are bold and simplistic, Mirka is feisty and spunky, and the book is a wonderful introduction to Jewish Orthodox traditions. A great transition book for fans of Babymouse and Fashion Kitty.
Thanks to writer Jen Petro-Roy!
- The ComicsAlliance Chanukah Gift List: 8 Nights of Jewish Comics. I’ve gotta say, I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so honored (and humbled) by the company Hereville is listed with — other books listed include comics by R. Crumb, James Sturm, Will Eisner, and Rutu Modan, among others. Thanks to writer David Wolkin!
- And last but not even slightly least, Elizabeth Bird’s 100 Magnificent Children’s Books of 2010. And once again, Hereville is in really great company, including one of my favorite graphic novels of 2010, Meanwhile.
In the Ohio Jewish Chronicle, writer Pam Spence includes Hereville in a list of this year’s “great books for Chanukah gifting.”
Barry Deutsch’s graphic novel for the pre-teen set is one of the most unusual offerings we have seen recently. The heroine of this work is Mirka, an 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl who has her sights set on slaying a dragon — with a sword. Got your attention? Mirka’s stepmother, Fruma, insists that Mirka learn the “womanly arts” — like knitting — but Mirka has other ideas. Mirka’s sisters insist that Mirka curb her unruly behavior lest she compromise all of their chances of finding a suitable husband, but Mirka has other plans.
In comic book style, Deutsch has nevertheless created a fully developed, complex character in Mirka who combats fantasy dragons as well as the dragons of real life: school yard bullies, unresolved grief, and boundaries of faith and culture.
In a column on books for kids, JT News (“The Voice of Jewish Washington”) gives Hereville a very nice mention.
For older readers (9 and up) comes the engaging and exciting graphic novel Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Portland graphic artist Barry Deutsch (Abrams, cloth, $15.95). While it features Orthodox characters in an Orthodox Jewish town, this book does not belong to the sub-genre of books aimed at only Orthodox readers.
Featuring “yet another troll-fighting 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl,” Deutsch appeals to almost any reader with his heroine Mirka. She just wants to do something a little different, but ends up involved with a witch and a talking pig. The author cleverly incorporates explanations of cultural and religious values, along with a little Yiddish, in this clever blend of fantasy and reality.
The writer was Diana Brement. Thanks, Diana!
Marjorie Ingall has included Hereville in her annual listing of the year’s best Jewish books for kids! There’s also a mini-review of Hereville:
Perfect throughout is Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, by Barry Deutsch. It’s a very weird, confidently drawn graphic novel about an 11-year-old Orthodox girl who fervently wants to fight dragons. Mirka Herschberg lives in a tight-knit community in an unknown time and place where boys have payos and married women cover their hair, but where the woods are full of trolls and witches and humongous crazed pigs. I love that the stepmother in this book is good instead of evil, and I love that Deutsch really knows how to tell a story in his chosen medium. Characters burst free of their panels; the interplay of image and text is flawless; the entire book is kinetic and action-filled, but thoughtful too. A must for graphic-novel fans.
Thanks so much, Marjorie! Check out her full list to see what great company Hereville is in!
Welcome To My Tweendom, a book review blog focusing on books for tweens, has posted a very nice review of Hereville! Here’s my favorite bit:
What follows is a wonderful blend of fantasy, quest and a window into the Orthodox Jewish world. Mirka manages to get what she wants without outright rejecting her culture and faith, but finding ways to work them into her desires. There is nothing that Mirka loves more than her family, and her quest to have a proper sword proves to be an awakening of sorts on this very topic. Deutsch’s portrayal of the relationships between siblings as well as those between children and parents are completely realistic, and readers will be able to identify with the characters regardless of their faith or their cultural background.
Completely different and refreshing, Hereville will quickly rise to the top of the recommendations that kids give to other kids.
Thanks to the reviewer, Stacy Dillon!