Friday, May 14, 2010

Smile - Raina Telgemeir


A minor detour was required amidst serious reading. My daughter bought this insanely popular book "Smile" at the book fair, and she assured me I could read it in about 20 minutes. Turns out, it took about an hour, but was a wonderful diversion. A little bonus? It was a graphic novel! I haven't started whittling away at my Graphic Novel Challenge yet. My intent was to have a month of graphic hedonism sometime this summer. But why not see what all the fuss was about? There had to be something to it if Emma has read it three times already.

The book is an autobiography of sorts by Raina Telgemeir, a comic illustrator who has been nominated for various Ignatz, Cybil and Eisner awards, as well as the adaptor and illustrator of Babysitter's Club graphic novels. The story follows Raina from 6th grade into high school. It documents her 4 1/2 year journey through dental torment, including reconstruction, retainers and braces. We also see her progress through boy troubles, judgemental friends, a devastating earthquake (in her hometown of San Francisco), acne, homework, and family dynamics. She learns to stay true to herself and not allow her peers to walk all over her.

In the middle grade and young adult literary environment of vampires, teen sex, foul language and bullying, this novel is a breath of fresh air. It just reconfirms that you don't need trash to entertain a 12-year-old. If I sound a little edgy, that is because I am. I recently read a very positive review of a book that I ordered from the library for my daughter to read...it sounded like it was right up her alley. Only to have my her tell me it was full of foul language and inappropriate behavior (she is pretty good at policing herself!). Shame on me for not reading it first. (I DO intend to read it by the way, so I talk her through whatever damage has been done.) She is a pretty mature 12-year-old, and understands the difference between right and wrong. Does this mean that she should read this stuff? I think she would choose not to. It makes her uncomfortable and finds it distasteful, and prefers books that make her feel like a happy, normal 12-year-old.

It is refreshing to read a book with a wholesome message. Ultimately, the proof is in Emma's attitude towards this book, which, as I said earlier, she has read three times and has rated it with quite a bit of love.

Emma: 5 out of 5 stars

Me: 4 out of 5 stars

17 comments:

Nymeth said...

How come I hadn't heard of this before? It sounds excellent!

My experience is limited, but I find that children and teenagers tend to be pretty good and self-censoring and walking away from what they feel they're not ready for yet. Hopefully this book will at least give you and Emma the opportunity to have an important conversation.

Melody said...

I saw this book on shelves but didn't know it was a YA novel since it was displayed at the YA instead of the Graphic Novels section. I thought the cover was cute but didn't pick it up. I'm glad you and Emma enjoyed it!

caite said...

glad you like the book...and it sounds like you have a very sensible, mature daughter.

bermudaonion said...

This book sounds great! It sounds like there's something in it for every teen to relate to. Kudos to your daughter!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Totally with you on how you don't need trash for a book to be entertaining. And you don't need actual sex for a book or movie to be sexy. You'd think media producers would figure this out. I guess it's always easier to go for the low.

Julie P. said...

Darn it! I had this is my cart yesterday at the Scholastic book fair and put it back b/c I was spending too much. That will teach me!

Beth F said...

I haven't heard of this, but I'll be a buying it!

I agree with others, it's amazing how kids can police themselves.

Zibilee said...

I have the same problem with books I purchase for my daughter. Often I will read a great and glowing review, only to have her come to me and tell me the book makes her uncomfortable because of subject and language. It makes me a little irritated that people don't let you know these things, but I guess it could be construed as my fault, since I don't often read the books before I give them to her, though I am always willing to talk to her about anything and everything she reads. All that being said, this sounds like a wonderful book that I think she would love, so I am going to have to take a closer look at it. Thanks for sharing this wonderful review!!

Anna said...

Sounds like your girl has a good head on her shoulders. I'll have to keep this one in mind for The Girl. She'll be getting braces at some point herself.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Kathleen said...

That is wonderful that you can share this reading experience with your daughter. It is refreshing also that she wants to be a normal 12 year old instead of a 21 year old trapped in a 12 year old body like some little girls today!

Iliana said...

I think that is so cute how she was so insistent on you reading it! Such a bookworm :)

I really like graphic novels so I'll have to put this one on my list!

Jenners said...

This does sound like a wonderful book ... and how great that she brought it to your attention.

And this reminds me that I guess I shall have to read my Little One's books once he is old enough to really start reading. How great that your daughter is "self-policing." It sounds like she could handle anything though without it hurting her.

heidenkind said...

There's always Twilight: The Graphic Novel for the the GN Challenge. Mwahahaha! ;)

Frances said...

You sound appropriately edgy, Sandy. More and more, I find myself having to pre-read everything for kids including middle grade reads not just YA. Find it very disappointing when publishing exploits children for a profit by attempting to appeal through inappropriate avenues. Now I sound a bit edgy too, right?

Andreea said...

I agree with everything you said, Sandy, and I am very happy to hear that you have such a clever daughter. I hope my little Emma will be the same:)

Alice Teh said...

I'm going to take on Emma's recommendation. Thanks for the review, Sandy! And please say thanks to Emma for me. :D

Literary Feline said...

I haven't heard of Smile but it sure sounds good, especially if both you and your daughter liked it so much.