Here­ville: How Mir­ka Caught a Fish

Bar­ry Deutsch
  • Review
By – March 24, 2017

How Mir­ka Caught a Fish is the third in the Here­ville graph­ic nov­el series. The sto­ry stands well on its own for read­ers jump­ing into the series at this point. The book tells the tale of an eleven-year-old time-trav­el­ing Ortho­dox Jew­ish babysit­ter charged with tak­ing care of her dis­ap­prov­ing lit­tle sis­ter Layele for the after­noon while their par­ents are out. The no non­sense pro­tag­o­nist is a girl hero who goes against the usu­al grain. Read­ers may be used to girls like Mir­ka who are ready for adven­ture and speak up for what they want but in Mirka’s world she ruf­fles feath­ers, giv­ing her broth­er a hug as he leaves for a trip. He responds: There’s an ORDER to the world! Girls shouldn’t go around hug­ging boys!” Read­ers will not see a span­dex suit and a cape. Mir­ka dress­es mod­est­ly in a long skirt with a ques­tion and excla­ma­tion mark pat­tern as well as lay­ered shape­less shirts. Char­ac­ters includes an angry, mag­ic fish with a grudge as well as a witch and a mag­ic troll that looks like a giant insect. The sto­ry takes place in a sub­ur­ban and rur­al set­ting that could pos­si­bly be the north­west Unit­ed States. The images are live­ly, active, sat­u­rat­ed, rich and col­or­ful. In this sto­ry, Mir­ka dis­cov­ers her step­moth­er was not always this reli­gious. She was once, shock­ing­ly for her daugh­ters, sec­u­lar or as they call it mod­ernish.” Chock full of Jew­ish con­tent, it is under­stood that the char­ac­ters are speak­ing Yid­dish because Eng­lish speak­ers get a spe­cial font. Yid­dish phras­es like: Vos hos­tu geton?/​What did you do?” And malekh ha maves/​the angel of death” are used by the char­ac­ters and trans­lat­ed at the bot­tom of the page. Mir­ka asks her sis­ter: Dos dakht zikh mir oyberlfekhkik? Or Isn’t that shal­low of their step­moth­er to wish to be pret­ty?” There are no hook noses; Mirka’s stepmother’s long nose is more like Jug­head of Archie fame. Mir­ka and Layele gawk at the naked­ness of mod­ern peo­ple who are not in the habit of dress­ing modestly. 

How Mir­ka Caught a Fish has con­flict and res­o­lu­tion as well as the uni­ver­sal appeal of adven­ture and right­ing a wrong. The under­ly­ing con­cept in the book is that while there are rules, they are made to be stretched and even bro­ken. Addi­tion­al­ly peo­ple who seem to fol­low those rules to the let­ter of the law now may not have always done so.

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 8 – 12.

Discussion Questions