Hereville: How Mirka Caught a Fish

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Hereville How Mirka Caught a Fish book coverWhat the Book is About:

This offbeat graphic novel (third of a trilogy including: Hereville: How Mirka Got her Sword and Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite) is set in a fictitious Jewish shtetl (a small Eastern European Jewish village) called Hereville. The heroine, Mirka, is not your typical eleven-year-old Orthodox Jewish shtetl girl. She dreams of becoming a hero and slaying monsters, and is decidedly not enthused to be babysitting her little sister, Layele. Mirka’s thirst for adventure leads her in over her head as she fights a magical fish with a thirst for revenge and discovers what is most precious to her.

Jewish Content and Values

  • Hereville is a fictional shtetl: full-color drawings depict girls and boys in traditional Orthodox garb classic to the shtetl era, and colorful Yiddish words (translated in footnotes) are used throughout.
  • Mirka and her family celebrate Shabbos (Yiddish for Shabbat – the Jewish day of rest). This is an important spiritual time for Mirka and her stepmother to put aside their fears and gain strength to fight against the magic fish.
  • Tzar Baalei Chayim (suffering of living things) refers to the Jewish Talmudic principle that forbids causing unnecessary pain to animals. Mirka decides that burying the magical fish alive to protect future generations is not the way to be a kind and responsible Jew, and convinces her stepmother and sister to find another solution.

Positive Role Models

  • Mirka is a fun character with lots of personality. Her impulsivity and passion often get her into trouble, but her good-natured introspective side cares deeply about doing the right thing.
  • Fruma, Mirka’s stepmother, protects and loves Mirka as a mother would. Although many might argue that the potentially life-threatening circumstances of the plot warranted desecration of Shabbat, she nevertheless demonstrates tremendous commitment to tradition as she celebrates Shabbat under trying circumstances.

Content Advisory

There’s some light comic-book style violence (Smack/Bam/Pow/Ouch) as well as a few insults like “stupid.” The idea of Mirka’s sister Layele being kidnapped underwater by the fish could be frightening to some kids.

Talk it Over

Because the fish gains strength with every attempt to hurt her, Mirka actually fights the fish successfully by not fighting the fish. Do you think that this method could be used in a real fight between two friends? What are some methods you’ve used successfully to end a fight?

More for You

Gefilte fish is a classic Ashkenazi appetizer eaten on Shabbat. Made of ground fish, spices, eggs and bread crumbs or matzo meal mixed into a paste, rolled into patties and then poached in a fish broth, it is traditionally served with a sliced cooked carrot on top and beet-flavored horseradish (chrane) on the side. Cooking fish in this manner stretched a bit of ground fish into enough food to feed the whole family, although religiously observant Jews also served this dish to avoid the prohibited activity of borer (choosing) on Shabbat; eating gefilte fish avoided the necessity of picking out the bones from the flesh. Gefilte fish may be sweet or peppery: the taste often revealed the eastern European origins of the chef, as Polish/Galician Jews traditionally opted for the sweet version while Lithuanians were fans of the savory dish.
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