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.
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.