Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, by Barry Deutsch. Published 2010 by Amulet Books. Graphica. Fiction.
Hereville is a charming graphic novel by writer and artist Barry Deutsch, author of the webcomic of the same name. Its heroine is plucky young Mirka, an Orthodox Jewish girl who has a secret life as a superhero battling trolls. She also has a regular life as an awkward preteen, navigating her family and her life as best she can.
Mirka is growing up in the town of Hereville, populated by mostly Orthodox Jews, and she goes to an Orthodox school. Her family, including her father, her stepmother Fruma and her brother and sisters, are observant but otherwise ordinary, and Deutsch makes his story accessible to general readers by including definitions for the Yiddish words and phrases the family uses and explaining the basics of Orthodox observance. I love the lively, expressive and varied artwork, the sense of activity as well as tranquility that Deutsch creates in scenes of adventure, daily life and quiet ritual. I particularly enjoyed the tender relationship between Mirka and Fruma; no evil stepmother is she, but a warm and compassionate woman who cares deeply for her children.
Hereville is really a winner of a graphic novel, family-friendly and great for kids and adults alike. Mirka gains a great deal of self-confidence battling the local trolls and my only kvetch is that I wish Mirka had used it for something less domestic than merely determining to learn to knit, but this quibble is a minor one. If you're looking for a smart, sweet and knowing look at observant Jewish life, Hereville is a great place to start.
Click here to see an interview with Deutsch on the blog of the Association of Jewish Libraries, along with more examples of artwork from the book.
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for professional use in conjunction with my work for the Association of Jewish Libraries.