Thursday, August 22, 2013

On the Coffee Table: Smile

Title: Smile
Author and Artist: Raina Telgemeier
via Diary of an Eccentric

I have never been a teenage girl.  But I grew up with one.  I also have worked with hundreds.  I know something of their struggle.  Yes, I know boys have issues, too, and those are not acknowledged often enough.  But I know enough to know that the adolescent journey for the women I know was very different from mine.  Comic artist Raina Telgemeier - in both this book and Drama (review here) - provides a frank, realistic and ultimately hopeful glimpse into that journey.

Unlike the fictional Drama, Smile is the true story of Telgemeier's own adventures with reconstructive dentistry during her pre-teen and early teen years.  One evening on the way home, Raina fell on the asphalt and knocked out her two front teeth.  Already on a path to orthodontia, the missing teeth only added to the ordeal, ultimately requiring four years to fix everything.

Of course, the teeth are only part of Raina's coming-of-age tale.  She endures many other trials of adolescence along the way - crushes unrealized, friends of questionable loyalty, puberty, identity crisis, etc.  Just like Callie in Drama, Raina is likeable but far from perfect, which only adds to her appeal for me.

Our Girl had already read Smile by the time I got to it and had, in fact, read through it several times.   She turns 10 very soon.  She is drawn to strong female protagonists.  So many troubling attitudes and stereotypes are perpetuated in books for girls that finding ones with genuinely positive role models can be a real challenge.  Telgemeier is 2 for 2 so far at our house.


  1. That sounds interesting, but, honestly, probably interesting enough to get me to actually read it. Not with the stack of books I have right now, anyway.

    1. Fair enough. Her books might be a fun choice for your kids, though.

  2. Finding strong positive role models in today's world is a challenge. It sounds like you are doing a good job.
    Family from Japan is here with my just turned 3 year old granddaughter. They are doing a terrific job keeping down the hot pink whinny Barbies and being positive strong in her up bringing.
    In today's world of the Karadarshine (sp) it is a very hard thing to do.

    cheers, parsnip

    1. Let's not kid ourselves, either. The status of women still has a long way to go in Japan. Sounds like your granddaughter is in good hands.