Author/Illustrator: Raina Telgemeier
Color by: Stephanie Yue
As though all the usual pains of growing up weren’t enough, one night after Girl Scouts Raina has an accident that knocks out her two front teeth. Oww! In addition to the obvious physical pain, she has to deal with the psychological and social troubles caused by the change in her appearance. It would really help if she had supportive friends . . . but her group isn’t exactly ready to make her feel better about herself. But life goes on, and in time (and through numerous challenging circumstances) Raina begins to find where she fits and to gain the confidence to smile, even if her smile doesn’t look perfect.
I’ve been seeing Smile around for a while, but didn’t realize it was a graphic novel until I picked it up to read. (I know, I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes.) Having read this incredible graphic novel memoir, I was highly impressed. This is a voice that we desperately need today. Telgemeier brings graphic novels from a place of fantasy to where they truly hit home. She speaks honestly and transparently to the struggles of growing up in a voice that we instantly relate to and that is absolutely credible. Moreover, she speaks to the issue of self-image in such a painfully honest manner–as she says in the novel, maybe if we talked about this sort of thing more, kids wouldn’t feel like they were the only ones dealing with this sort of stuff. I think the art fits the story perfectly; it’s expressive and dynamic, honestly showing the characters with all their flaws but also with full, vibrant personalities clearly shining through. I would give Smile high recommendations, especially for kids in that challenging middle-school to high-school time of transition–I know it made me smile!