How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch feels like a translation due to a few bumps in the flow of wording. However, that is the only real major bump in this modern folktale. Ages 10 to 14 probably will not see anything with that. The art helps fill in a few of those spots as will the readers imagination. The lack of color and the mix of busy and minimal details also give the feeling of a classic, but contemporary too, folk tale.
Words in Yiddish are added into the speech of the characters. There are footnotes for translation. This gives the setting and characters an authentic feel. This is a look at an Orthodox Jewish girl, her family, her life, her culture, her religion, and magic. Mirka is a spunky heroine who might not be the most modern feminist, but Deutsch shows how she is herself within the world she currently lives in and will live in as an adult/married woman. There are familiar scenarios (such as dealing with family and sibling issues, along with bullies and coming into your own). But also mixed in is the representation of a possible unknown culture to most kids (and even adults) today.
The story is about Mirka trying to find a way to be brave and fulfilling her dream to fight dragons. But girls do not do that. And as her stepmother says, why should you try and kill a creature that is just being itself? Would you condemn yourself for eating chicken or other meat? Yet, Mirka, just being Mirka, finds a path that could lead her to a great sword. Unless she is eaten by a troll or the witch that Mirka has not only stolen fruit from, but saved her from bullies, has a trick up her sleeve.
I have stolen this comment from Calista from Goodreads: “I was never captured by it. I think it’s a fine story with some good ideas and it didn’t completely land for me personally.” And this is how I felt, too. I liked how you learn that Jewish people do not eat pork, therefore, since no one in the town would keep a pig, Mirka and most of her siblings do not know what it is. I like how the older sister is thinking about her image and trying to keep hers and the family’s reputation unsoiled as possible so all the girls will make a good marriage match. I liked the Yiddish words. I liked almost everything about it, but still, this is only a 3.5 or 4 rating for me. With that said, I think I might find the two sequels I just learned about.