Title: How Mirka Got Her Sword
Recommended for: Mid-to-high 5th grade and up, especially the geek girls and fantasy enthusiasts. *Waves geek flag high*
Call Number/Link: GN J Hereville V. 1
Spunky ten-year-old Mirka Herschberg hones her skills in her Orthodox Jewish community before accepting the challenges presented in these books.
Review: Okay, I have to confess that I have read this before. However, upon re-reading it this summer, I remembered why I originally liked it so much!
Despite a fairly unusual setting and action-packed fairy tale plot, Mirka is a familiar heroine; there are trolls to be fought and swords to be won, but the author does not shy away from including such relatable problems as grief, sibling rivalry, and tween-girl growing pains (no boy-girl drama, though. For Mirka, at least, boys still have cooties, and brothers are pains-in-the-neck who need to be protected). All the issues are handled quite well, and at a developmentally-appropriate level. The sass is strong with this one: Mirka is no shrinking violet, and her quick temper will be familiar to many readers, as will her soft heart, which causes our heroine to repent quickly when her sharp tongue gets her in trouble or stings someone she loves. (She is disrespectful towards her stepmother at times, but appropriate consequences are clearly shown.) Without giving too much away, I must say I was very pleased that, like fairy-tale heroes before her, Mirka’s gift of gab gets her into and out of hot water. It all depends on how it is used. (This is a fantasy land where there is a definite good and evil, and the author does a brilliant job of communicating that.)
Mirka’s Orthodox Jewish community may not be familiar to most readers; there was a great deal that was new to me, at least! However, there are plenty of explanations throughout the book (well-phrased, so we get the picture without feeling talked-down-to) so the reader feels relatively comfortable in Mirka’s world.
It’s an unusual, quirky book, but one that will hopefully appeal to both boys and girls who like action, adventure, and fantasy. Basically, once they are done with Zita the Spacegirl or Redwall or Warrior Cats, or even Diary of a Wimpy Kid, they can try this one.