There has already been a lot of love for Raina Telgemeier’s autobiographical Middle Grade graphic novel, Smile. I just finished it today, and so it’s my turn to chime in. It really is charming and touching, from beginning to end, and if ever you had a tooth pulled as a kid, or had more than your fair share of ortho appointments, you’ll appreciate it all the more.
In Smile, Telgemeier, the adaptor and illustrator of The Baby-sitter’s Club graphic novels, tells her own story of “family, friends, boys and dental drama,” and when she says dental drama, she’s not kidding. In her grade six year, after a night out at Girl Scouts, Raina fell and knocked out both of her front teeth. So began an incredibly long process of surgery and orthodontics and headgear and struggle for Raina back towards an ordinary smile.
I hope that Raina’s book marks the beginning of many more quality graphic novels for middle grade girls, and readers would be lucky indeed if they were this well done, this emotionally true. At several moments while reading Smile I thought how right it was that Raina didn’t shy away from how miserable the middle grade years can be, when it seems like the only thing you’re really good at is being awkward. I think most readers will have a few moments of recognition. I know I would have been comforted to read this book at twelve or thirteen, when I might have recognized a little bit of my own life on the page. Smile is a heartfelt, pitch-perfect read, sure to find many fans. So go read Raina Telgemeier’s story and get your smile on (with braces or without).
Smile is published by Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic.