Monday, January 11, 2010

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Smile by Raina Telgemeier
(Rated: C)
Graphix (An Imprint of Scholastic Inc)
ISBN: 978-0-545-13206-0
Release date: February 2010
Trade Paperback, 224
Ages 9-13

This is the first graphic novel I review and it’s now got me hooked on graphic books. It reminded me of when I read Archie comic books as a kid. Based on the true story of author Raina Telgemeier’s 4 year angst with dental drama, Smile lightens the load by rendering what can be traumatic experiences for kids into a funny but realistic story told through great illustrations.

Taking place in the late eighties, the story brought back memories of my own teen years and wearing braces. But Raina didn’t just need braces. When in 6th grade she took a bad fall, knocking out her two front teeth. This led to one complication after another that included corrective surgery, wearing braces not once but twice, wearing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached; all this while dealing with everything teen years are about—school, boys, and friends.

My 8 year-old daughter began reading it as soon as it arrived but stopped shortly after. It reminded her of the unpleasant times she had several baby teeth extracted because her permanent teeth were coming out and lacked space. She felt so badly for Raina—especially since she knew that Raina’s story was real and not fictional—that she couldn’t continue reading about her trials. A week later I pried the book out of the hands of my husband (who thinks it’s a great book because it uses humor to deal with a painful experience and should be in every school library) and cuddled together on the sofa with my daughter to read it to her. With me next to her, she was able to laugh along at some of the situations. There is a great possibility my daughter will one day need braces and I think Raina’s experience and how things worked out is reassuring.

Raina’s realization that there is more to her than her dental woes sums up the book nicely: “I had been letting the way I looked on the outside affect how I felt on the inside, but the more I focused on my interests, the more it brought out things I liked about myself, and that affected the way other people saw me.” This is a funny, coming-of-age-with-multiple-teeth problem kind of book with a heartwarming message. Thanks, Raina, for telling your story!

Disclosure: Thank you to Nikole from Scholastic Canada for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

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