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Monday, February 2, 2015

Three graphic novels about an eleven-year-old, troll-fighting, orthodox Jewish girl and a wild west rabbi.

Deutsch, Barry (2010) Hereville:  How Mirka got her Sword.  New York:  Amulet.

This book somehow gives the reader insights into the day-to-day life of a Jewish Orthodox family and at the same time tells the story of a girl who manages to outwit bullies, a witch, and a troll.  We get to meet her good step-mother (who loves to argue for the sake of arguing), her brother Zindel (who is afraid of bullies from school, but brave enough to sneak onto a witch's property to steal some grapes), an evil talking pig that steals her homework (just after the best graphic novel sequence about math homework that I have ever seen), and the troll that challenges her to a knitting duel. 

The art is excellent.  The panel lay-out is inspired, the drawings are clear and well done (the style tends just a tiny bit toward caricature/cartoon, but not enough to be distracting. Most of it is two color rather black and white or full color, but it is so well done that if you read the book and I asked you later, you would say that it was full color.

The story is clever and wonderful and witty and exciting and informative and smart students with good senses of humor with love it.  I would guess smart fourth graders and up.  Teh story does contain a which.  She doesn't really do much in the story, but some parents object to any mention of witches in a story.  I cannot see anything else that would be challenged in this book.  Get it for your classroom library -- or for yourself.  It will make you smile.

Deutsch, Barry  (2012) Hereville:  How Mirka Met a Meteroite.  New York:  Amulet.

When Mirka goes to claim her sword from the troll, he tricks her into summoning a meteorite that threatens to flatten Mirka's town.  The witch stops the disaster before it happens by transforming the meteor into a duplicate of Mirka.  At first Mirka enjoys having someone who can do her homework while she plays, but before long, the meteorite duplicate proves to be better than Mirka in almost everything.  How Mirka resolves the problem is at times nail-biting, but also quite delightful (and involves fighting monsters)

The art is fantastic (and more color this time). Like the earlier book, this one is ideal for fourth grade an up. As with the earlier book, some parents might object to the witch.  Also as with the last one, this book is a lot of fun (and a good way to learn about the Jewish Orthodox faith -- kind of by osmosis.

Sheinkin, Steve (2010) Rabbi Harvey vs. the Wisdom Kid  Woodstock, VT: Jewish lights Publishing.

Rabbi Harvey is the wisest rabbi in the wild west (and before you sneer and say you bet he is the only rabbi in the wild west, as it turns out, he finds himself in conflict with a selfish, money-grubbing rabbi named Rabbi Ruben (he calls himself The Wisdom Kid).  Soon they are having a duel, relying on logic, wisdom, and folktales to outsmart the other,  Every single page of this book has several amazingly clever moments.  For example,

Rabbi Ruben:  This town's not big enough for two rabbis.
Rabbi Harvey:  Agreed.  Now what's this about a woman paying you to treat her sick parrot?
Rabbi Ruben:  I said I'd treat it, but I never promised to save the stupid -- I mean precious little creature.
Rabbi Harvey:  And she agreed to pay you anyway?
Rabbi Ruben:  That's right.
Rabbi Harvey:  Whether you cured the bird or killed it?
Rabbi Ruben:  Exactly, thank you.
Rabbi Harvey:  And did you cure the bird?
Rabbi Ruben:  Regrettably, no.
Rabbi Harvey:  Did you kill it? 
Rabbi Ruben:  Positively not!
Rabbi Harvey:  So you neither cured the bird nor killed it.  According to your own agreement with this woman, you have no right to a payment.
Bystander:  That's our rabbi!

The art is not spectacular.  Like the first book in this series, it is pretty rudimentary (the heads of every person in this graphic novel are disproportionately big).  But it is enough to get the story.  It  would be a great book for any kid with a good sense of humor who likes logic puzzles, or any kid who likes to see the bad guys humiliated.  It also conveys a rich history of folktales and wisdom literature.  I didn't see anything objectionable in this graphic novel.

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