School Library Journal Battle of the Kid's Books, and I need to make some serious hay with that list.......no brainer.
The story is this: Mirka Hirschberg wants more from life than knowing how to knit and snare a good husband. She wants to slay dragons. But to slay dragons, she needs a sword. When the opportunity arrives for her to gain such a sword, she takes her chance. Pretty straightforward, right? Well, as Hamlet said, "There's the rub." Because beyond the graphic novel format, it is difficult to pigeon hole this book as a type.
First, there is the cultural angle. 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! Perhaps it is just me, but does anyone else find the words "funny" and "orthodox-anything" a strange mash-up? Well it works here. I'm not giving anything away when I say there is a scene towards the end where Mirka is fighting for her life, and it had me.....well.....in stitches.
So who should read Hereville? Everyone! Wise and daring, spiritual and exciting, poignant and hilarious--this book has it all. Fans of graphic novels will appreciate such a quality addition to their favorite genre. Readers new to the format will be impressed by the mediums efficiency and unique ability to propel this most original story. I am probably being greedy to hope for a sequel, but there is one unresolved revelation that I would like to know more about. So here's hoping.
FYI--like Wimpy Kid before it, Hereville started life as a web-comic. (The similarities pretty much stop there.) Anyone who has read the web-comic will want to get their hands on the graphic novel, because there is loads of new art and the story has been expanded. If you read the book first, check out the original to see how the story grew and developed.