Who would have thought that a fictional graphic novel with witches and trolls could be educational at the same time? Well, that is what Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, by Barry Deutsch, succeeds in doing with a clever story and good artwork.
This short graphic novel is unique because it has fantasy elements, but at the same time, it also gives an accurate picture of what a Jewish community looks like from the inside. Mirka, the main character, is an 11-year old Jewish girl who lives in the rural town of Hereville. She has a brother and two sisters who, like most siblings, annoy her a lot. Mirka also has a stepmother named Fruma–with whom she is prone to have extended arguments. Despite what might be expected of her, Mirka is anything but unadventurous: she dreams of being a dragon-slayer. The only problem is that she doesn’t have a sword. Hereville is the story of her quest to find a sword (By the way: Hereville has no objectionable content in terms of foul language, violence, etc).
This story is complemented by great illustrations. Barry Deutsch uses a wide variety of artistic techniques, including a restrained palette of colors, interesting visual word balloons, and overlapping images to make each page fun to look at, as in these two panels where Fruma is having a talk with Mirka’s older sister:
I was confused in a couple of places by Deutsch’s innovative panel layouts, but nothing essential to the story was difficult to understand. The artwork is simple yet elegant.
So Hereville is enjoyable, but as my younger sister pointed out when I asked her opinion, “The book was kind of … blah.” So don’t expect Hereville to be amazing. Don’t expect an inspirational message. Don’t expect epic-ness or lots of emotional depth or really complex characters. It’s just an uncomplicated story.
But it is an interesting story nevertheless. Hereville is worth reading because it has a clever, educational plot and good artwork. If you like fantasy-themed tales then you will probably like Hereville.