Hereville, Babymouse, and Fantastic Mr. Fox: Brief Thoughts on Three Books for Preteens

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The graphic novel Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch is subtitled “Yet Another Troll-Fighting 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl,” and that just about describes its universality and its strangeness. Mirka lives in an Orthodox Jewish town, and she is struggling not only with being a preteen but also with her nemesis: learning to knit. One day, she stumbles upon a witch’s house with a strange monster (a pig, which she has never before seen since she is an Orthodox Jew). As her adventures get stranger, so does her reward, and in the end she fights a troll and wins. I don’t want to describe too much of the story. Because it is a graphic novel for young readers, it is pretty short and straight forward. I enjoyed the clever twists, the new setting, and the Jewish culture, and as a book for kids, it still feels universal in Mirka’s struggles as a girl between childhood and young womanhood. I also liked the illustrations to the novel.

Click here for more about Babymouse

Babymouse: Queen of the World by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm is another graphic novel about a preteen  searching for her place in the world. Babymouse is an awkward mouse wanting to fit in with the popular (animal) crowd (particularly, the popular Felicia Furrypaws) of middle school. It takes place in a typical middle school, Babymouse faces typical middle school problems, and the characters are typical middle school stereotypes. For all those familiar things, it was a satisfying short read. I loved Babymouse’s spunk, I found the illustrations of so familiar things to be refreshing, and the message relating to self-esteem was an appropriate and necessary one for the age group. In short, I loved reading it. I would speed through the entire series if I were still a preteen. I may still indulge on occasion.

Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl is not just for preteens; its a classic Roald Dahl novel, which means anyone will probably enjoy it. Three farmers determine to destroy the fox invading their storage sheds, and so they hunt after Mr. Fox. He is not to be deterred, though, when his family’s life is on the line. It’s a brief read and it’s simply perfect in it’s storytelling and construction. Reading Fantastic Mr. Fox has reminded me that Roald Dahl is one of the best storytellers for kids there is. I really must read all of his works, because somehow I was remiss in my childhood and I have not read most of his books.

This movie could have been good or bad. Have you seen it?

Which preteen books (especially including graphic novels) have you enjoyed? What Roald Dahl story is your favorite? I’ve only read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda (as a child), James and the Giant Peach (as a child), and now Fantastic Mr. Fox.

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  1. My favourite Roald Dahl is probably James and the Giant Peach, but it’s a close call! I haven’t seen the Mr Fox movie yet, but as a Wes Anderson fangirl I’m very curious about it.

    Also, I’m glad to hear you enjoyed Hereville! I thought it was very cleverly done, and a lot more nuanced than it could have been.

    1. Nymeth » I haven’t reread JAMES as an adult. My son does’nt like the cover and I can’t get him interested…yet. And I’m always looking out for more graphic novels to try, thanks to your wonderful blogging about them! It will never be a favorite format for me, but it’s nice every now and then.

  2. I’ve also loved Roald Dahl since I was a child, and I love his adult fiction also. (“Lamb to the Slaughter” is probably my favorite of his short stories). Fantastic Mr. Fox is one of my favorites, so I was a little hesitant about the movie. It’s very good but not that faithful to the book — obviously, they had to expand the story to make it feature-length. I think they really did capture the essence though I wish it had been more British actors. George Clooney is Mr. Fox and he’s great but just not authentic enough for me.

    1. Karen K. » I checked out the movie this week! We may watch it tonight. I really didn’t read tons of Roald Dahl as a kid, but I’m making that up by introducing my son to him early here! He loved Charlie, not sure which to read to him next, as he doesn’t seem interested.

  3. Hereville is a favorite of mine this year. I’m glad you liked it too! I thought it was really sweet and I loved the illustrations.

    1. Marie » I really liked it. Always looking out for more like it! I know you read lots of GN (right?), so I”ll have browse your site for more ideas.

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