There is something very endearing about this coming of age graphic novel. It's funny, it's touching, it's beautifully illustrated. I was conferring with a 5th grader in Kansas City earlier this week when she introduced it to me.
You might know Raina Telgameier's work, she also illustrates the graphic novel series of The Baby Sitters Club. There's something special about this book. The main character, Raina, is a typical sixth grader who just happens to trip and fall and injure her two front teeth. The result? An orthodontic nightmare of braces, headgear, surgeries, a retainer and all the embarrassment it brings to a sixth grader's life (not to mention the friendship struggles, the boy-girl situations, the earthquake). The plot of this book connects to the life of an adolescent with all its ups and downs.
When I was conferring with the student in Kansas City, her eyes lit up as I sat next to her and she started talking about the book... about how real it felt, how it made her laugh, how fun it was to read, how much she was inferring as she was reading. It's a book I can't wait for my own daughter to read.
The best part - the author based it on her life. On her website (http://goraina.com) when she was asked if she really knocked her teeth out, she said,"Yes! It’s all true. I was in sixth grade when I fell and knocked out my teeth, and I have been dealing with the consequences ever since. I had braces, a lot of surgery, and a lot of awkward smiles as a result. The comic SMILE was born out of a need to get the whole experience down on paper, since I spent so much time telling people about it."
The artist's skill as a cartoonist and her brilliance as a writer take the reader to the days of adolescent adjustment and awkwardness. But with dignity, humor, and insight. I think it's a must read and a perfect book to discuss as a family. You won't be disappointed. Neither will your students.