When I think about the talents of individual authors, illustrators and author/illustrators it seems to me their work is as unique as they themselves are. Each is known for their particular gifts when applied to the art of making books for all kinds of readers. For authors it might be their descriptive settings that tantalize the senses, the realistic, relevant dialogue between characters or a pulse-quickening plot. A particular medium, color palette or technique applied to their visuals is what usually sets one illustrator apart from another.
reviewed here by Elizabeth Bird) by Barry Deutsch I was captivated from the opening page to the final panel, reading it in a single sitting. Two years later the eleven-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl has returned in Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite (Amulet Books, an imprint of of Abrams). Opening the cover of this book, fashioned by an author/illustrator distinguished by his writing and artwork, is stepping into a world unlike any you have ever known.
Being grounded left Mirka with too much time and pent-up energy. So, under orders from her stepmother Fruma, Mirka turned to knitting.
Unfortunately her limited skills lead her to knit one thing and one thing alone---berets. Having covered the heads of her entire family, she is now bored and bugging those she can with her urges to sword fight with curtain rods. One chess game and a chat later with her stepmother, frees her from the confines of her home.
Running to the woods she summons the troll to claim her sword. Wanting to pay the witch back for initially helping Mirka, the troll casts a spell which backfires; a meteorite is sent plummeting toward not only the witch but Hereville. There's only one person who can stop the meteorite---the witch. With only fifteen minutes until Hereville is no more, Mirka sets off running to cover the two mile distance.
Gasping in exhaustion she collapses in the witch's yard with the meteorite in sight before she passes out. When she awakens the witch informs Mirka the meteorite was transformed with only moments to spare. Mission accomplished! or so Mirka thinks until she discovers the form the meteorite was given.
It seems Mirka now has a twin given the name Metty. While it might be handy to have a replica of yourself from time to time, it is not a good thing to have one who not only wants to take over your life but is superior in nearly every way. As events and emotions reach a fever pitch, a competition is staged; three contests will determine who gets to stay in Hereville. Clever siblings, a magical ball of yarn and an unforeseen flight into space seal the fate of both Mirka and Metty.
There is no pause in the pace of Barry Deutsch's narrative. He holds his reader's attention during a family chess match, word battles with the troll, Mirka's conversations with herself, thoughtful, sometimes anguished, discussions with her stepmother, and the constant conflict with the meteorite, Metty. To have all these individual threads seamlessly woven into the setting of an Orthodox Jewish community, Hereville, including the weekly holiday of Shabbos, the use of Yiddish terms (meanings noted in footnotes) and other cultural customs (the attire of the witch against the modest clothing worn by others in the community), is the sign of a master wordsmith.
The opening endpapers show in rows of small diamonds the many faces of Mirka. The closing endpapers feature the many faces of the additional characters in this story, including the monsters (yes, monsters). With the exception of specific panels of the meteorite in it's original form and those pages when Mirka is in space, Deutsch's color palette is limited to shades of green, brown, and orange along with black and white; his signature style.
The panel sizes and shapes on a given page vary according to the emotions of the characters, the particular sequence of events and the specific point reached in the story. Readers may see an illustration cover two entire pages, view a series of twelve uniform squares on a single page or observe one visual superimposed on another; all to enhance the story and further involve the reader. I can not begin to imagine the amount of time, thought and skill it took to design and layout this graphic novel; it's impeccable.
Look no further if you're looking for a flawed but feisty character set squarely in the middle of an action-packed adventure amid a fantastical world. Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite by Barry Deutsch is one of those books you devour and go back for second helpings; it's that good. There is a Hereville website linked by Deutsch's name above. This link will take you to the first sixteen pages of this book to preview. Just after the release of this title Barry Deutsch was interviewed at The Enchanted Inkpot.