Let’s face it. Middle School is traumatic! Middle schoolers think eveyone notices everything they do. Classmates can be cruel. Anything that makes you different from your classmates feels like torture.
Smile by Raina Telemeier is an autobiographical graphic novel chronicling the ups and downs of middle school and high school, a tough season for any adolescent especially if there’s something that sets you apart from your classmates.
At age 12, Raina fell on the pavement resulting in losing her two front teeth. Six year olds with missing front teeth are adorable, twelve years olds not so much. Raina’s life for the next four years includes dental surgeries, trips to specalists and two sets of braces.Most of all, she feels different from her classmates. Her story also navigates crushes, friendships and other teen drama.
Smile encourages the reader to laugh and sympathize with Raina’s recollections. When she spies her crush in the hall, she is so enamored that she walks right into a row of lockers. When she tries on extensive headgear for her braces, She exclaims, “C’mom Mom, let’s go get me some glasses, a pocket protector and some velcro shoes.”
Raina begins her story with sixth grade and ends in high school. Along the way, she learns to chose her friends more carefully and pursue her talents for drawing and singing. She gradually settles in with a new group of artsy friends that are kinder, more authentic and accepting.
Kids love graphic novels. Teachers and librarians are increasingly realizing the benefits of this genre. Smile, however, is an exceptional graphic novel. It won the Wil Eisner Award for best books for teens. Telgemeier has published two other graphic novels, Drama and Sisters. Fans of her books can create their own comic scenes at www.scholastic.com/raina