Author: Raina Telgemeier
Color: Stephanie Yue
Copyright Date: 2010
Printed in Singapore
Find a copy here.
I would recommend this book for readers in grades 5-8. While the vocabulary is not very difficult, the book deals with issues of adolescence and would appeal most to students in, or approaching, middle school.
Smile, by Raina Telgemeier, is a graphic memoir that follows artistic Raina through the trials and tribulations of middle school and early high school. To make these awkward years more painful, Raina has a terrible accident in sixth grade which causes her to suffer years of dental work and pain. Throughout her journey, Raina has run-ins with her first school crushes, endures hurtful teasing from so-called friends, and finally discovers her true self. With fantastic illustrations, laugh out loud moments, and an easy to identify with main character, Smile is sure to be a hit with any middle school student.
Blogging abut Smile will help students begin the conversation about what a memoir is and how this book fits (or maybe doesn’t fit) into that genre. This text is a great book to start blogging with because it is a very inviting read. The book is a relatively quick book to read, and the writing is not challenging. However, the issues raised about peer pressure, the desire to fit in, and finding out what traits are important in friends are substantial and provide good discussion material. Also, students who haven’t read a graphic novel before may have much to say about the set-up of the book and what effect the illustrations have on the reader.
For a class blog, I would pose one or two questions for students to choose from to answer, using evidence from the text to support their response. Then they would comment on at least one other person’s post. In addition, I would ask them to include one thing they noticed and one question they have (or had while reading).
Example Blog Responses
How might Smile fit into the genre of a memoir? Why might it not fit?
A memoir is an autobiographical piece of writing about a small moment in time in which the author learned something. Smile fits into the genre of a memoir because it is the true story of Raina Telgemeier’s adolescence, thus it is autobiographical. Throughout the story Raina learns that the friends she had in middle school tear her down, make her unhappy, and are unsupportive. She makes new friends and spends time focusing on things she enjoys, like art, and in the process discovers who she is as a young adult. However, a few of Smile’s characteristics don’t fit in with the definition of a memoir. The story takes place over four and a half years, which is not a small moment by any sense. Plus, with so many detailed conversations it’s hard to believe Telgemeier remembered them word for word from her youth. More than likely some places of the story have been recreated or embellished.
I noticed . . . as I was reading the pictures really kept my interest and helped clue me in about the characters’ feelings and emotions. With so little text, I relied heavily on the illustrations to give me a fuller picture of Raina’s story. This was my first graphic novel, but I’d be interested in reading others. Raina Telgemeier has another book, Drama, which might be good to read since I enjoyed Smile so much.
I wonder . . . if Raina ever talked to her middle school friends again. It’s strange how some school friendships can change so quickly while others remain strong for people’s entire lives.
Reader’s Response Questions
How would you feel if you had to go through a similar dental experience as Raina? What fears might you have?
How did you like reading a graphic novel? What features of the book were helpful? Explain. Was there anything you disliked about the format? Explain.
Have you ever had a falling out with friends like Raina? What do you think Telgemeier’s message is about peer pressure and friendships?