Back in July, I won a copy of the hardcover of the Original Graphic Novel Memoir: Smile by Raina Telgemeier. If you aren't familiar with the story, it is an account of how Raina knocked out her front teeth when she was 11, and the resulting 4 year ordeal that followed that event to get the situation resolved. During the course of the story, you file her life and her budding interest in boys and how she fits in with her friends, etc. It isn't just a story of dental procedure, but really of all the life that goes on around that central event. The book is 213 pages and is full color. It is published under the graphix imprint of Scholastic.
I follow Raina on Twitter @goraina. In July I guess I saw a tweet about a giveaway that art&story was doing It required all the effort of doing a tweet pointing people to Raina's website. That was the sort of difficulty/effort level I was born for, and I happily tweeted, and was absolutely thrilled and stunned when I won. I am sure I have said this sort of thing many times, but I met Raina at SPX last year and bought two small things she had done. She seemed really nice, and her style of cartooning is fun and expressive, and really terrific. I have wanted to pick up Smile, and have heard nothing but good stuff about it, so this was ideal for me.
Teeth are a tough issue for a lot of people. Adolescence is a tough time. Self Image, self worth, self respect, are all important things. Between the ages of eleven and fifteen a lot of things can happen and change, and most people aren't super prepared for all of those things when they are young. So many things are changing, so much is happening as people are figuring out the type of person they will be, and how they fit in, etc. This is a really good story to tell because it is set in the midst of all of that, and is real. I would recommend it across the board, but really, I think you are doing a pretty great thing if you get this into the hands of a young girl you know.
There is a bit of triumph in the story that I think would be beneficial to anyone staring down the barrel of puberty, and going into middle school, etc. People change, friends change, be true to yourself, don't accept people treating you with less respect than you deserve, ultimately you will get through hard times, and sometimes hard times last longer than we want them too. There are probably other good things to take away from Smile, but those are the ones I was most struck by.
The best part is that the story is told in a way that feels real, but also has humor in it. I look forward to letting my daughters read this when they are back at home for more than a few days(thanks summer) I suspect they will enjoy it. Hopefully Smile is something that will find a place in school and public libraries everywhere.
*The link I put for Art & Story has a link for a podcast interview they did with Raina regarding memoir comics and Smile. It is a great conversation for anyone interested in the craft and process of making comics. Here's the same link again