Children's Literature - Kathie M. Josephs
Anyone who has gone through middle school can attest that this is a most complicated time because of both physical and emotional changes. Being an adolescent is just plain hard. This is true even when everything goes right. However, in this autobiographical story there is one massive issue that Raina has to deal with that her friends do not and that is losing her two front teeth due to an accident. The comical yet thought-provoking autobiographical writing is compelling and very enjoyable. The problem is not just losing two teeth, but it is the many surgeries, very embarrassing headgear, and a temporary retainer that has false teeth that adds to Raina's misery in middle school. She is actually happy when she gets the retainer because she looks normal, but when it falls out in front of her friends she is mortified. When Christmas comes she is excited to see what her grandmother has sent herit is a box of peanut brittle! Along with dealing with the teeth problem, she also has to adjust to having a crush, her family changing, and most of all, learning the hard lesson that friends are not always what they appear to be. This is a must read for any middle school girl. It is funny and touching, and the reader will be able to identify with the many feelings Raina has. The illustrations are wonderful and add much to the book. This would be a great gift to give to a child ready to head off to middle school but especially to a child heading for middle school that is having orthodontia work. Reviewer: Kathie M. Josephs
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up—When she was in sixth grade, Telgemeier tripped while running and lost her two front teeth. In the years that followed, she went through a torturous series of dental surgeries and repairs, the trauma of which was mirrored by the social struggles she experienced during her adolescence. A minor complaint is that there is no mention of when all of this took place, and readers may be puzzled by seeming anachronisms such as old-school Nintendo games. Telgemeier's full-color artwork is confident and light, and her storytelling is appropriately paced. This straightforward and entertaining autobiographical comic is sure to please.—Douglas P. Davey, Halton Hills Public Library, Ontario, Canada
There are comic-style books aimed at older teenagers on every conceivable subject, but Smile is unusual. It's a fictionalized memoir (some names and details have been changed), but also the equivalent of a Judy Blume novel: younger readers can turn to it for understanding and comfort. It hits home partly because there is nothing else out there like it.
The New York Times
Dave Burbank and Karen MacPherson
…the real focus of Smile is Telgemeier's search for identity, a universal experience with which readers will readily identify. Her illustrations bear her trademark cartoonist touch, while the story's emotion is highlighted by the work of colorist Stephanie Yue.
The Washington Post
A charming addition to the body of young adult literature that focuses on the trials and tribulations of the slightly nerdy girl. Telgemeier's autobiographical tale follows her from sixth grade, when her two front teeth are knocked out during a fluke accident, through high school, when, her teeth repaired, she bids good-bye to her childhood dentist. Like heroines stretching from Madeleine L'Engle's Vicky Austin through Judy Blume's Margaret to Mariko and Jillian Tamaki's Skim, Raina must navigate the confusing world of adolescence while keeping her sense of self intact. Many of her experiences are familiar, from unrequited crushes to betrayals by friends to embarrassing fashion choices. The dramatic story of her teeth, however, adds a fresh twist, as does her family's experience during the San Francisco earthquake in 1989. Although the ending is slightly pedantic, Telgemeier thoughtfully depicts her simultaneous feelings of exasperation and love toward her parents, as well as her joy at developing her artistic talent—she's deft at illustrating her characters' emotions in a dynamic, playful style. This book should appeal to tweens looking for a story that reflects their fears and experiences and gives them hope that things get easier. Ages 9–13. (Feb.)
Telgemeier has created an utterly charming graphic memoir of tooth trauma, first crushes and fickle friends, sweetly reminiscent of Judy Blume's work. One night, Raina trips and falls after a Girl Scout meeting, knocking out her two front teeth. This leads to years of painful surgeries, braces, agonizing root canals and other oral atrocities. Her friends offer little solace through this trying ordeal, spending more of their time teasing than comforting her. After years of these girls' constant belittling, Raina branches out and finds her own voice and a new group of friends. Young girls will relate to her story, and her friend-angst is palpable. Readers should not overlook this seemingly simply drawn work; the strong writing and emotionally expressive characters add an unexpected layer of depth. As an afterword, the author includes a photo of her smiling, showing off the results of all of the years of pain she endured. Irresistible, funny and touching-a must read for all teenage girls, whether en-braced or not. (Graphic memoir. 12 & up)
From the Publisher
"I so enjoyed reading Smile, I couldn't put it down. It's excellent!" -- Lynn Johnston, creator of For Better or For Worse
"Raina perfectly captures the small, everyday surprises, dramas, and embarrassments that make up adolescence... A joy to read." -- Gene Yang, National Book Award Winner for American Born Chinese
"Irresistible, funny and touching." -- Kirkus Reviews
"It hits home partly because there is nothing else out there like it." -- The New York Times Book Review
In a minor accident at age 12, Telgemeier lost two front teeth, not minor to remedy. Following came years of dental surgeries and orthodontics involving implants, false teeth, and headgear far beyond the more usual "braces." Treatment complications interacted with the complications of teenagerhood and puberty, which led to social as well as medical turmoil. Yet Telgemeier's early career choice as an animator grew out of this difficult period. With lively color art; an entertaining and helpful read for tweens and teens facing dental complexities of their own.
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