Smile (paperback)

by Raina Telgemeier

AR Level 2.6, 1 point


This book comes at the request of one of my students.  When I set my basket on the table and asked them to choose “must reads” for me over the summer, he put Smile into the basket, and then chose Drama by the same author.  I didn’t ask him why he chose these two books, but because of this particular student, I accepted the request.  I also had seen the books on the shelves at Barnes & Noble (aka Mecca), and the woman who works there said it was a good book.

So this is the story of a girl named Raina Telgemeier.  I have to assume that since the author shares her name, it is autobiographical.  It is set during the late eighties in San Francisco.  Raina is a seventh grader and falls after a girl scouts meeting and knocks her two front teeth out.  It is obviously very painful, but also mortifying as a junior high student to be missing teeth.  The story follows her for several years through her many procedures to fix her teeth.  We also witness her struggle with the pains of puberty, her first crushes, and viciously mean girls.  The story has a happy ending when her teeth are fixed.

What I liked about this book was that it was all written as a comic book!  Is that what brought it down to a 2.6 reading level?  Because I really don’t see a second grader reading about zits, crushes, and broken, bloody teeth.  In the story, Raina wants to become an animator and shows interest in art.  It would make sense that she achieved her dream and is now a graphic novelist.  Another thing I liked was that Raina struggled with her self-image and had mean, mean friends.  As a reader, we look at her and know that she should be happy with who she is, and we want her to see that her friends are awful and she deserves better.  As a tween?  It’s not so easy to think the same when in her situation.  I appreciate books with a strong, relatable moral.

As a bonus, the website comes with a comic designer so you can continue the story with Raina.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it was a 2.6 level.  I’ve said before that it’s hard for me to get through easy books, and this was one of them.  I think there are ways it could have been more challenging, but I also see that the author was writing it from Raina’s perspective, so of course she’s not going to use 50-cent vocabulary words.

Book 21 of 52


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