Graphic novels are popping up everywhere. Generally speaking, they tend to attract more male than female readers, but I imagine that will change once this book hits the shelves. Illustrator Raina Telgemeier first caught my eye when she adapted the beloved Babysitter’s Club to the graphic novel format. Now she’s back with the autobiographical Smile, which gives new meaning to the phrase growing pains.
Raina is a happy-go-lucky kid with a loving family who undergoes years of dental hell following an unfortunate accident; braces, headgear, surgery, fake teeth…you name it, Raina’s had it. In addition to dental woes, she deals with first crushes, the ever-present frenemies that seem to pop up around age 12, and her own emerging identity as an artist. Raina is lovable and easy to relate to. She’s the kind of girl you want for a best friend; someone who will watch The Little Mermaid with you a hundred times and would never dream of spilling your secrets. I am a sucker for anything that could be described as a poignant coming of age story, and Smile certainly fits the bill.
Parts of the book brought to mind David Small’s much acclaimed Stitches, although this book is much lighter in tone and is definitely for a younger audience. In both of these graphic memoirs the authors confront their childhood medical nightmares, creating beautiful and heartfelt books in the process. Telgemeier is candid about the many painful dental procedures she underwent, and although these sections aren’t overly graphic (ha ha!), they might make a few gentle readers a little queasy.
These days an author is only as good as her book trailer, and Telgemeier’s is perfect. You can check it out here. Show this trailer to a group of 12 year old girls and watch your female graphic novel readership skyrocket. Smile would go nicely paired with one of Jimmy Gownley’s Amelia Rules books.
Smile, published by the Scholastic Imprint Graphix, is available now.