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Smile, Raina Telgemeier

2010/08/21

In this graphic novel, Raina Telgemeier addresses one of the most common childhood frustrations and embarrassments: braces! Based on her own childhood experiences with dentalwork, Telgemeier follows a sixth grade girl who accidentally knocks out her two front teeth and spends the next few years becoming very well acquainted with her dentist and a number of orthodontic specialists. Raina experiences embarrassment and anger over the prolonged work required to reset her teeth, frustration with her siblings and parents who do not realize how painful the process is, self-loathing and low self-esteem because she feels unattractive and freakish. Once in seventh grade, Raina is subject to peer pressure, changes her look, and finds herself with a crush on the sixth grader who sits next to her in band. As she passes through the grades and into the next, Raina realizes that her friends are contributing to her low self-esteem, and decides to leave those relationships behind to develop healthier, supportive ones. The book culminates with the successful removal of Raina’s dentalwork and an increased sense of self-worth.

Illustrated by the artist for the Baby-sitters Club graphic novel series, this book is attractive and cleanly drawn. Raina lives in San Francisco, so there are a few spreads of the city, as well as reference to the San Francisco earthquakes. This book would be great for children worried about braces or dental work, as well as those who need a little encouragement when peer pressure or self-esteem has got them down.

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