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5th Grade Adventure Booktalk

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Hereville: How Mirka got her sword by Barry Deutsch

Image from Goodreads.com

Deutsch, B. (2010). Hereville: How Mirka got her sword. New York: Amulet Books. ISBN: 978-0810984226

Annotation: Mirka is an 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl who is more interested in slaying dragons than knitting lessons with her stepmother, but first she needs a sword.

Reaction:This book is so much fun! It’s set in an imaginary Orthodox Jewish town, which is so isolated from the rest of the world Mirka doesn’t know what a pig looks like. Deutsch depicts Orthodox practices and includes words and phrases in Yiddish, with English translations at the bottom of the page, which exposes the reader to a religion which is not often experienced by very many people. The inclusion of these practices illustrates that despite the differences in religion and manner of dressing, the kids in the story have all the same desires, dreams, problems and concerns that all kids have, and by having 11- and 12-year-olds read Hereville, teachers can introduce more diversity to a kid’s worldview and hopefully, make him or her more tolerant of others’ differences.

Deutsch makes very creative use of panels within his graphic novel, often leaving characters unbounded on a plain background to highlight their emotions or actions. The characters all have distinct physical characteristics and expressive faces, despite the simplicity of the drawings. Deutsch conveys everything the character is feeling through a few changes in the drawings of the eyes, eyebrows and mouth. The coloring of the book, done by Jake Richmond, are distinctive and seemingly simple. The first 3/4 of the book is done in shades of orange and black, providing a sepia tone to the illustrations, while the last quarter of the book is done in mostly purples to indicate nighttime in the story.

The story ends with some mysteries still unexplored, particularly about Mirka’s stepmother and her association with the witch, which means that I’m highly anticipating the release of the second volume in November!

Mirka is an awesome heroine for girls in 5th and 6th grades. She’s strong and fearless, and she doesn’t worry about how others perceive her. Thankfully, though, she’s not perfect. Deutsch has created a well rounded character who is flawed; she regrets some of her impetuous actions and suffers the consequences, which makes her relatable to readers and even more endearing.

This is absolutely on my Top Ten Favorites list for this class, and I would HIGHLY recommend it to everyone.

This book is also on the 2011 Students’ List for “Books receiving votes for Top Ten Favorites from students in Summer 2011.”

Hereville was nominated for an Eisner Award, a Harvey Award, an Ignatz Award, the Andre Norton Award, and won the 2011 Sydney Taylor Book Award — the only graphic novel ever to win (Hereville website).

Media: Photoshop and Cintiq tablet, which, according to Deutsch, is a “kind of interactive pen-on-screen tool” and is also colored in Photoshop (copyright page).

Author’s Website

Book’s Website