Smile by Raina Telgemeier

The book fair was held at our school during this past week. I love watching to see what my students buy, almost as much as I love booktalking the books at the fair. One very popular choice for my girls was Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, a fantastic new graphic novel. I hadn’t read the book yet but many of my students bought a copy. The next day, one of them rushed into homeroom and handed me her copy. “Do you want to read it, Miss M.? I finished it last night and it was really good!” I was so convinced by her enthusiasm that I put aside the book I was reading and read Smile during reading workshop.

What a wonderful graphic novel for middle grade girls! Based on Raina Telgemeier’s own experiences, this graphic novel is perfect for the tween set. Full-color illustrations really make the story pop and even though I am not a huge graphic novel fan. (I’m too verbal to really pay attention to the illustrations. They’re too spatial for me!) In the beginning of middle school Raina falls and knocks her two front teeth fall out. She’s not only in major pain, but she’s also scared. To make matters worse, her trip to the dentist doesn’t yield the greatest news- he can put the one tooth they found back in but the other is stuck up in her gums. Plus, there was bone damage. She wears the braces for a few years only to find that her teeth wind up embedded in her gums, leaving her feeling like she’s a freak.

What I really love about this book is how well Telgemeier captures tween angst. The accurately portrays many of the struggles tween girls are faced with, from fake friends to body image issues. I found myself laughing and nodding my head, reminded of my own middle school years.

On a completely unrelated note, I love the cover!  Why?  Because it doesn’t advertise that it is a graphic novel.  In many cases, my students are reluctant to pick up graphic novels because they don’t look like “real” books to many parents.  So kudos to Scholastic for giving this great novel a typical cover that doesn’t scream “comic book!” to adults!

*Copy courtesy of a student who lent it to me!