My daughter Mari is 9 years old, and a 3rd grade student. She is very interested in this reviewing thing that eats up so much of Mom's time, and wants to try it. So, here is our first joint review, of Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch.
Note: Mari and I tried to record this as a podcast, but had some technical issues, so for this one, we just have the transcript!
Me: O.K. -- it's our first book review together, and we're going to talk about Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword. So, if you had to describe this book in just a few sentences, how would you?
Mari: It was amazing and the artwork was wonderful. It had a good storyline and I liked how she produced it.
Me: I would say it was a good adventure story with an unusual lead character and setting. Can you tell me what the book was about?
Mari: It's about an Orthodox Jewish girl named Mirka, who has a stepsister named Rachel, and an older sister named Gittel, who is always talking about getting married, and she has a little brother. They live in Hereville. One day, Mirka sees a woman floating, cutting wood, and she takes her friends to see her. When they're there, she eats a grape and a big pig chases her. The pig won't leave her alone until she ropes it and rides it underwater. Then she saves the pig from bullies so the witch tells her where to find a wonderful sword as a reward.
Me: Why does Mirka want a sword?
Mari: Mirka dreams about fighting dragons. She has a book of monsters, which isn't a Jewish book, and she's not supposed to have it. She needs the sword to fight.
Me: Well, that makes sense. What did you like best about this book?
Mari: Well, that's hard! There are three things: the artwork, the storyline, and her stepmother. I liked the artwork because it was realistic without being like "oh, this line is two millimeters too long, arghghghghg!" and it wasn't "oh, I'm sorry that I didn't draw noses or mouths on anybody". It was the perfect balance. My goal when I grow up is to be a comics artist and win an Eisner award, so I always look at the art first.
Me: I liked the artwork too, but I thought that it was a little distracting because some of the closeups were more realistic than the far away scenes.
Mari: That's bad?
Me: No, but it did take me out of the story a little bit. What did you like about the story.
Mari: I liked Mirka! I liked that she was "spunky" but not "grrr...kill kill kill". I liked that she was a Jewish girl, because my dad is Jewish, and you don't see many Jewish girls in fantasy books.
Me: I liked that she was Jewish too, and a Orthodox Jew at that. It was interesting to see a different way of life. But she had to break some rules to have her adventures though, didn't she?
Mari: Oh, yeah.
Me: You said that you liked her stepmother, why?
Mari: Well, she was argumentative, feisty and liked to fight. She's just like me!
Me: I have some things in common with the stepmother too. I think she was my favorite character. Is there anything you didn't like about this book, or thought the book could have done better?
Mari: No, not really. It was pretty close to perfect. There's just one thing. The witch didn't really look like a witch, I liked that she didn't look cheesy, like a Halloween witch, but she really just looked like a creepy old lady.
Me: I don't think I would change anything either. I do wish it had been in color, because I think it would attract more readers, but I think the kind of brown, sepia tones work for Mirka's kind of old fashioned way of life. So, who would you give this book to?
Mari: I would give it to kids my age, mostly girls, but boys too. Boys need to read about spunky girls. I would give it to people who like fantasy books.
Me: I think it's a good book for grade school kids, but I also think it would be a good book for adults too. Maybe even adults who don't know much about comics.
Mari: That's a great idea! Because comics are good books. A lot of grownups don't realize that.
Me: Yes, comics are good books. And a lot of grownups don't understand that. Maybe we should talk about that next time. Are we going to do this again?