Recommended for ages 10+
Raina Telgemeier’s memoir, Smile, is a coming-of-age memoir that’s framed by the night sixth-grader Raina sustained an injury to her mouth that led to a series of surgeries and orthodontia. Throughout middle school and high school, Raina endures braces, surgeries, retainers, and even headgear. She becomes a target for her friends’ teasing, which leads to her pulling away from them and embracing her love of the artistic. When she finally realizes that her friends aren’t the people she wants to surround herself with, she stands her ground and moves on.
Smile is one of those books that everyone should read, kid or adult. It’s all about fair-weather friends, enduring what feels like the end of the world, and ultimately, finding your own voice. It’s empowering, whether you’re 12 or 92, because it’s something we need to be reminded of, from time to time – “it”, whatever it is, won’t last forever, and the people you surround yourself with may not be the best for you. Dig deep down into yourself and love yourself enough to get through it.
The cartoon art makes the story even more accessible,with friendly-looking, expressive characters and warm colors throughout. The endpapers resemble a yearbook -in fact, Ms. Telgemeier used her yearbook signatures for the book – with signatures and well-wishes from friends, setting the tone for the book.
Smile has received numerous accolades – deservedly so! – including winning the Eisner Award for Best Publication for a Teen Audience (2011), the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award (2012), and the Maine Student Book Award (2012). Smile was a finalist for the Children’s Choice Book Award (2011) and has received designation as an ALA Children’s Notable Book (2011), an honor book from the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards (2010), a Kirkus Best Book of 2010, and a New York Times Editors’ Choice (2010).
There are lesson plans on the Web that allow educators to bring Smile into the classroom. Scholastic offers one on their site, along with a template for students to create their own graphic novels; The Graphic Classroom offers some great classroom discussion tips using the book.
A companion book to Smile, called Sisters, which will be published in August 2014 and will examine the relationship between Raina and her sister, Amara, who briefly appears in Smile.