Thursday, November 17, 2011


Title: Smile
Category: Graphic Novel, Realistic
Grades: 6-10
Author: Raina Telgemeier
Publisher: Graphix
Date: 2010
Pages: 214

Lots of children get braces.  But for Raina, braces are only the beginning.  After a bad fall knocks her two front teeth out, Raina must have not only braces, but repeated surgeries and dental work to help her look normal again.  Through the process, Raina struggles to fit in with her peers and cope with the many other hazards of growing up, and learns to be confident in herself and the things she enjoys.

A winner for young people who struggle with feeling or looking “different,” Smile will surely strike a chord.  The story is told in graphic format, but the illustrations are clear and the story is easy to follow.  Any reader who has ever had braces will sympathize with some of the physical pain Raina describes, and most will readily relate to her experiences with cruel “friends.”  Because the story is autobiographical, some readers may find that it wanders a bit through daily events that are otherwise unrelated to the main plot.  The main character is almost completely defined by her teeth and the process of restoring them to the point that some readers may have difficulty fully connecting with her experience, or become bored by the orthodontia details.  However, for the right reader, this book will be a big hit.  Best audiences will likely include girls, readers who feel isolated or different particularly for physical reasons, and possibly readers who have had extensive dental work or other medical procedures.


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