Another Mirka story by Barry Deutsche, Hereville: How Mirka Caught a Fish takes us back into the world of an Orthodox Jewish teen named Mirka. Smart and feisty, Mirka clashes with her stepmom. When she’s made to babysit her young half-sister, Mirka defies the rule that she shouldn’t go into the forest. She longs to experience the adventures her stepmother had as a girl. This adventure-seeker soon encounters trouble through a magic, or rather cursed talking fish, who soon kidnaps the little girl, making Mirka the “worst babysitter ever.”
The story is fun and wise. I enjoyed Mirka’s spirt and learning of the stepmom’s history. Surprising Furma, the stepmom grew up with a very modern mother, who’s something of a 1960’s hippy type.
The dialog is fresh and I like how authentic the story felt, in spite of a cursed fish that kept growing. I loved the glimpse into a different culture and all the Yiddish sprinkled into the dialog. (Deutsche provides definitions at the bottom of the page.) The stepmom isn’t perfect, but I liked how she spars with Mirka and makes the teen increase her understanding. Yes, the older generation has wisdom even feisty teens can’t refute. It would be easy to just show Mirka as always right and the rules of her community outdated. Instead, Deutsch points out how there’s wisdom in them.
Barry Deutsch’s Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword delights. Mirka is an Orthodox Jew who lives in a culture I haven’t see covered in fiction. This story of an adventurous teen has wit and spirit. Smart, lively and brave, Mirka helps her brother fend off bullies and a wild pig. The pig can talk and is prominent in the book offering a tongue in cheek wit as pigs are taboo in a kosher house. (The pig never goes inside the house).
Mirka’s family is very traditional and she doesn’t get along with her stepmother, who’s a strict disciplinarian. Yet rather than presenting the stepmother as a villain, it’s this sharp-tongued woman who most helps Mirka the most.
The book is a fun, fast read that takes readers inside a culture that’s rarely presented. There are two other Hereville books and I’ve ordered them all.
A disappointing graphic novel, The Drained Brains Caper (Chicagoland Detective Agency #1) is a tired story with stock characters and illustrations that aren’t anything special. The story revolves around 13 year-old Megan, a vegan who wanders into a pet store to buy a tarantula. The teen minding the shop informs her that while the pet sop sells pet food and supplies, it doesn’t sell pets.
The surly Megan gets in trouble at school and her father, a widower, puts her in a private school to straighten her out. The clichés abound. The kids in the school are Stepford children with no originality or backbone. Megan won’t conform and strives to find out what’s going on in this odd school.
The stereotypes are heavy-handed and tiresome. The artwork looks like a lot of graphic novels and thus out of place in a story championing creativity. At least it was a fast read. It’s odd that the premise is that adults are draining kids brains, when most teachers wish to spark thinking. The concept of adults plotting to bore kids is commonplace and tired.