The quaint Hudson River village of Cold Spring, where I just spent a month, is deserted on weekdays and so I couldn’t help wondering about the Orthodox Jewish couple, the woman with her hair covered by a scarf and the man in a formal-looking white shirt and black pants, I saw on the otherwise empty Main Street one morning. I got my answer a little bit later when, on a walk along the river, I heard cheerful voices and looked out to see the same pair, waving at me as they paddled about in kayaks.
While no kayaks show up in Barry Deutsch’s remarkable graphic novel Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, plenty of other things do — a pig, a witch, some nasty bullies, a wise step-mother, knitting, and that sword. I knew nothing about this book, but after reading Betsy Bird’s rave review, I requested it pronto. (Thank you, Jason Wells at Abrams, for sending it so quickly!) I’m not sure I can add much to Betsy’s review other than to say — it is all that and more. This graphic novel is bright and fun and clever, the characters real and multi-faceted, and the art spectacular. Deutsch uses comic vernacular perfectly — expressions, movement, panels, speech bubbles — all in the service of his warm, wise, and wonderful story.
It is the story of Mirka who wants to fight dragons. While I’m not going to reveal if she gets to fight anything I will say that how she gets that sword is exciting, smart, and fitting. Kids are going to snap this one up, I promise you, boys and girls alike. Some will go for the delightful Mirka. Others will eat up the adventure. There will be those who will especially enjoy the relationships in her big family. Others will appreciate the peek into Orthodox Jewish life. It is a book that can be entered and enjoyed in these ways and multiple more, I have no doubt. Superb.