06 August 2012

Review: Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Remember earlier this summer when I introduced you to the Scholastic Mother Daughter Book Club for middle readers? I featured the books from May and June in a series of three posts. Although I missed July, from now on I plan to review at least one of the monthly selections and feature the other one.

Don't forget that the Scholastic book club site includes more information about the books, recipes, reading guides, and contests. As I wrote this post, the August books weren't up on book club site yet, but I'm sure the resources will be there soon.

When best-selling graphic novel author/artist Raina Telgemeier was in sixth grade, she tripped on a rock and knocked out two teeth. That started a four-year journey of dental work, orthodontics, and periodontal work--just at one of the most difficult times in childhood. Raina's struggle to regain the confidence to smile is a funny, smart, and painful look at not only trips to the dentist but navigating the rocky road through middle school friendships and crushes.

Smile started out as a serial comic on the website Girlamatic.com, and Telgemeier and Scholastic worked to bring the story to its present book-length form. This graphic novel autobiography is so honestly told that I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't love it. Even if you never wore braces (lucky you!), you can certainly relate to being embarrassed or unsure about your looks and changing body during adolescence.

A major theme throughout is Raina's relationship with her friends. It seems that from the time of her accident, her BFFs have trouble knowing how to act, and Raina's vulnerability makes her an easy target. Because her girlfriends are not always horrible, Raina sticks with them, but one day their mean-spirited teasing crosses a line. Fortunately, she eventually finds the courage to stand up for herself, which gives her the freedom to pursue her own interests in art. Once she does that, Raina is amazed to find friends who see her for what she is and what she can do, not how she looks or how cool she acts.

The scan gives you an idea of Telgemeier's delightful artwork (click the image to enlarge it). You can definitely get a feel for the characters' personalities and feelings through their facial expressions and body language. One fun thing we learn in Smile is that Telgemeier found her calling by seeing the movie The Little Mermaid, even though she was sure (as a seventh-grader) she'd be too old for Disney and wouldn't like it. Although she is not currently an animator (her initial dream), she is certainly using her art to tell stories.

Book clubs will want to talk about how it feels to be different, how to help friends get past traumatic events, what it's like to get your first crush, and how to deal with friends when they stop being nice. Other parts of Raina's story involve her family, an earthquake, and how small moments can affect the rest of your life. One of the great things about Smile is that it's a true story, so young girls can see it really is possible to survive even the most embarrassing moments of middle school.

Once I started reading Smile I couldn't put it down. Raina Telegemeier's engaging, personal story teaches all of us about self-confidence, true friendship, and how to survive the dentist.

Smile was the recipient of many well-deserved awards: 2010 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor title, a 2010 New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2010, a 2011 ALA Notable Children's Book, a 2011 YALSA Top 10 Great Graphic Novels for Teens pick, a Children's Choice Book Award Finalis, and the 2011 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Teens. For more on Raina Telgemeier and her other books and work, visit her website.

The second August selection for the Scholastic Mother-Daughter book club is The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford. Stop by tomorrow to learn all about it.

This review will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama.

Buy Smile at Powell's, at an Indie, at Book Depository, or at a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Scholastic / Graphix, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780545132060
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: A
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


bermudaonion 8/6/12, 7:43 AM  

I just read her newest book and loved it. I need to get a copy of this one now. It sounds great!!

Julie P. 8/6/12, 8:17 AM  

SMILE was amazing! I have her new one to read very soon!

Sandy Nawrot 8/6/12, 8:24 AM  

I really enjoyed this book, and so did my daughter. And it was the hottest thing going at the school library. I think we had three copies, and they were all completely DESTROYED within months. I think every girl in 4th through 6th grade read it several times over.

Daryl 8/6/12, 8:36 AM  

I wish I knew a reader of the right age for this .. now all my little friends are either too young or too old .. oh well .. thanks for the review

Zibilee 8/6/12, 10:45 AM  

My daughter also read and loved this, at a time when she hadn't yet gotten braces, although she was still a little at odds with the way she was changing. It is a great book, and one that helps young girls to understand that it's not only them.

Vasilly 8/6/12, 12:36 PM  

Smile is such a great book! My daughter read it when it was first published and loved it so much. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Jenn's Bookshelves 8/7/12, 8:49 AM  

My oldest loved SMILE, despite the fact it was about a little girl. We were luck enough to meet Raina when she visited our indie bookstore! We cannot wait to read her next one!

Laura at Library of Clean Reads 8/11/12, 11:17 AM  

My daughter and I loved this. We read it together. The first time my daughter read it she just felt horrible for Raina, but after my daughter got braces of her own she re-read it and appreciated it a lot more. The illustrations are perfect, capturing the emotions just right.

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