Amazing Kids! Magazine

Amazing Book Reviews: Smile

By Raina Telgemeier
Reviewed by Sarina Patel, Jr. Assistant Editor and Comic Hub Co-Editor
Published by Graphix, an Imprint of Scholastic, 2010
Recommended for ages 8 – 12


The graphic novel Smile, by Raina Telgemeier, is a quirky testament to the struggles often found in middle school in the 90’s.

While running home from a meeting, Girl Scout Raina theatrically falls on her face and knocks her front teeth out. What follows is an upfront, solid, and easy trod along the most critical concepts of middle grade novels: tackling acres of homework, managing tricky siblings, playing video games, struggling through puberty, and wrapping your head around dental drama.

Throughout the novel, Raina gracefully intertwines the toothy business of orthodontics with the silly schemes of schoolhouse fun. Telgemeier’s meticulous narration and vivid expressions mold an upbeat girl who lives according to her hefty sense of sarcasm and positive personality.

Smile is a trustworthy and cavity-free memoir that will anchor you to the joys of growing up: opening your locker after trying multiple times, discussing cartoons with friends, and even pondering the looming issue of high school. Even when Raina doesn’t make the basketball team and has her secret notes read out to the class, you will feel a twinge of admiration for the girl who tries to succeed in many more ways than one. This is simply because Telgemeier has an uncanny knack for making Smile seem honest-to-goodness where other authors would craft a sugary scene. Smile creates unpretentious students and refreshingly unashamed parents. The result is a rocking comic with a flair for the nerdier things in life. Get ready to hear constant allusions to video games and 90’s pop culture references!

What’s more, the snappy dialogue sprinkled on every page will stick with middle-grade readers—it’s hard to forget such golden earworms as: “I guess in the grand scheme of things…losing a couple of teeth isn’t the end of the world!’” and “Beginning band’s going to be a bunch of sixth graders an’ me. I don’t care what they think of me!” Honorable mentions are awarded to “‘Maybe I’ll do my homework early!’” and “Whatever happened to talking about cartoons?”

The unabashed uniqueness of Raina’s artsy tale continues to sparkle with cheesy quips “My life didn’t magically turn perfect after that.” and helpful morals “I realized that I had been letting the way I looked on the outside affect how I felt on the inside.” In contrast, the super-plucky remarks from the doodler with her head in the clouds actually fill us with a renewed sense of optimism:  “I threw my passion into things I enjoyed, rather than feeling sorry for myself.”

The sheer metamorphosis from weirded-out wallflower to creative and confident individual proves that we are all capable of leaping past even the most daunting boundaries. And, in the final stroke of the pen, the comic gently pushes us towards the idea that straightening your smile may even help you discover yourself.

In summary, the joltingly genuine and hilarious true story leaves us with a toothy smile on our faces.

Guess we’ll just have to grin and bear them.

You can purchase Smile on Amazon.