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Book Reviews , Graphic Novels , Middle-Grade · November 6, 2020
Graphic Novel Review: Smile by Raina Telgemeier
Summary: Smile by Raina Telgemeier
In her graphic memoir Smile , Raina is just trying to enjoy being a sixth grader when an accident severely injures her two front teeth. Thus begins an unending series of visits to dentists and different treatment options. Throughout this process, Raina still has middle school to tackle. Her friends are sometimes insensitive toward the things that matter to her and she’s finding herself newly developing crushes on boys, even as she’s too embarrassed to smile, thanks to the braces, head gear, retainer, and other contraptions she has to wear throughout the course of this book.
Smile follows Telgemeier from sixth grade until high school as each attempt to rectify the situation with her teeth is stumped and doctors are forced to try a different route.
I truly admire Telgemeier’s ability to share her life stories as graphic memoirs, and create an enjoyable plot out of a story spanning over two years. Raina is very likable and goes through many relatable middle school woes, made even more agonizing by her dental issues. Although her dental issues do affect her self-image, I thought she did a fantastic job of holding strong. At that age, I might not have handled things as well as she did.
Another interesting aspect of this book for me is Raina’s dental problems. I loved learning about how dentists handle issues such as hers, and her experience was both frightening and comforting, because at least if I ever had such an accident, I’d have a good shot at recovering, no? We don’t see a lot of Raina’s family in this story as most of it happens at school, but they are still a reassuring presence, especially her mom.
Telgemeier handles crushes realistically — not every school crush becomes a boyfriend, and sometimes you switch crushes very quickly. Finally, bullying and unhealthy friendships feature in this story. Raina quickly learns that sometimes your friends aren’t good for you, and it was refreshing to see her remover herself from those relationships. Kids are still so new to friendships that sometimes they may allow themselves be treated poorly. I liked that Raina knew when it was enough for her.
Overall: Smile by Raina Telgemeier
Telgemeier’s Smile isn’t my favorite graphic novel/memoir from her, but it’s still one I enjoyed reading. This coming-of-age memoir highlights several important themes include body image issues , unhealthy friendships , crushes, and bullying . Spanning the period from sixth grade to high school, this novel features a dynamic, relatable protagonist and will appeal to kids a variety of ages. If you like books that teach you a bit about medicine/dentistry, this is also an excellent pick in that regard.
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Have you read this book or any other graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier? If you’re looking for more middle school graphic novels, check out this list with 36 options .
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Smile book summary, by raina telgemeier.
Want to learn the ideas in Smile better than ever? Read the world’s #1 book summary of Smile by Raina Telgemeier here.
Read a brief 1-Page Summary or watch video summaries curated by our expert team. Note: this book guide is not affiliated with or endorsed by the publisher or author, and we always encourage you to purchase and read the full book.
Video Summaries of Smile
We’ve scoured the Internet for the very best videos on Smile, from high-quality videos summaries to interviews or commentary by Raina Telgemeier.
1-Page Summary of Smile
Smile, written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier, is a graphic novel that tells the story of her childhood. It was published in 2010, after originating as a weekly webcomic from 2004-2007. The book follows Telgemeier’s life during middle school and high school. She struggles with issues such as bullying and finding friends.
“Smile” is a young adult graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier. The story takes place in the sixth grade and follows a girl named Raina, who has an overbite that requires braces. When she falls while running after her friends, she breaks two teeth on her upper jaw. Her mother takes her to Dr. Golden for emergency surgery to fix them so they won’t fall out of her mouth completely.
Raina finds this situation funny at first, but then becomes frustrated with the recovery process. She is asked invasive questions and given throwaway platitudes. When she goes back to her orthodontist, Dr. Golden tells her that now her front teeth are too high up in her mouth and need to be moved down with braces. To move them down, she will have a root canal as well as painful headgear that makes it hard for Raina to go out in public without feeling like a nerd.
Raina’s mother consoles her by buying her videogames and allowing her to get a couple of ear piercings on her 12th birthday. Meanwhile, a sub-conflict emerges as Raina’s friends pressure her about how she looks. Two of them, Karin and Nicole, make mean jokes at Raina’s expense. When Raina enters seventh grade, she develops a crush on Sammy, another sixth grader in the band class who also wears braces. Soon after that, San Francisco experiences an earthquake but only suffers temporary power loss for the family. It turns out that Sammy has feelings for Raina too but then she develops an obsessive crush on Sean (not mentioned if he is basketball player or otherwise), which causes problems in school with Karin and Nicole until they leave town without telling anyone why they’re leaving.
The braces aren’t working, so Dr. Dragoni decides to remove them and give her full braces that will pull the teeth together. Raina is terrified of this but gets used to wearing a retainer with fake plastic teeth in between procedures so she can feel normal while waiting for the next one. She’s excited when Sammy asks her out on Valentine’s Day, but she feels sick at school and leaves without telling him why or even going into the dance where he was planning to confess his love for her. The next day, Sammy finds out from someone else what happened at the dance and is heartbroken because of it.
Raina’s braces are even more painful now, and she has to go for re-tightening every few weeks. In addition, Raina had a traumatic experience when she fainted after a botched gum cleaning. Her friends think that she is too uptight because of this incident, so they intensify their teasing and stage a prank on her 13th birthday. They give her a tacky makeover under the pretense of wooing Sean, who Raina likes but can’t get because of her appearance issues.
After graduation, Raina plans to start fresh at high school. However, she ends up in the same group and struggles in class. In fact, she now has to wear a rubber band between her braces to correct a crossbite. At the book’s climax, Karin mocks Raina because her extensive dental supplies fall out of her backpack. As Raina storms away from them, Karin and Nicole pull down her skirt in the middle of the courtyard while everyone watches. Tearful and humiliated by this incident, Raina stands up for herself as well as other friends who condone their actions when they tell others about it later on that day during lunchtime.
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214 pages, Hardcover
First published July 12, 2009
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Book Summary Smile , by Raina Telgemeier
Think back to middle school: the mounds of homework, the excitement of crushes, and the changes of puberty. Imagine that on top of all of this, a face-first tumble onto the pavement has lodged your two front teeth higher into your mouth and you’ll need years of dental work to correct it. This is what happened to comic artist Raina Telgemeier, who recounts her middle school years in her autobiographical graphic novel, Smile. Through her exploration of adolescence, self-consciousness, and the horrors of dental work, Telgemeier sends an uplifting message: that you can achieve confidence by focusing less on your appearance and more on your interests.
In this guide, we’ll take you through Telgemeier’s middle school years and dental struggles. In our commentary, we’ll connect the book’s themes to research on adolescence. Furthermore, we’ll offer strategies for applying the book’s themes to your everyday life, whether you’re a parent of an adolescent, someone who works with adolescents, or an adult seeking to reflect on your own relationship with your appearance.
1-Page Summary 1-Page Book Summary of Smile
Think back to middle school: the mounds of homework, the humiliation and excitement of crushes, and waking up to find that your body looks different than it did the day before. Imagine that on top of all of this, a face-first tumble onto the pavement has lodged your two front teeth higher into your mouth, and you’ve found out you’ll need years of dental work to correct your wonky teeth.
This is what happened to comic artist Raina Telgemeier, who recounts her middle school years in her autobiographical graphic novel, Smile. Through her exploration of adolescence, self-consciousness, romance, and the horrors of dental work, Telgemeier sends an uplifting message: that you can achieve confidence by focusing less on your appearance and more on your interests. While Telgemeier’s graphic novel is written primarily for middle school readers, the story she tells and the themes she explores are also relevant to those seeking to support adolescents, as well as adults hoping to reflect on their relationship with their appearance.
Telgeimer grew up in San Francisco, California, where Smile takes place, and she later moved to New York City to pursue a degree in illustration. Smile (published in 2010) is her first graphic novel, and it earned her the Eisner Award for Best Publication for Kids and Best Writer/Artist. She’s since published several other award-winning graphic novels for upper elementary and middle school readers.
In this guide, we’ll take you through Telgemeier’s middle school years, starting with her first dental appointment in sixth grade and ending with the long-anticipated removal of her braces in ninth grade. In our commentary, we’ll connect the book’s events to the wider world by examining research on adolescence. Furthermore, we’ll offer strategies for applying the book’s themes to your everyday life, whether you’re a parent of an adolescent, someone who works with adolescents, or an adult seeking to reflect on your past and your relationship with your appearance.
Part 1: 6th Grade
The start of raina’s dental work.
Smile begins with a scene of Raina forcing a grin: She’s at the dentist, and they’ve ordered her to smile wide so they can snap a photo of her teeth. After the dentist examines her mouth, he shares the news that she’ll soon need to get braces to correct her overbite —which Raina isn’t happy to hear.
Supporting Youth Who Need Braces It’s common for children to have an overbite and get braces. Nearly 70% of US children have some degree of an overbite (though not every child with an overbite receives treatment), and 50 to 70% of US children get braces . It’s also common to dread getting braces, especially if you’re a teenager with concerns about your appearance. According to one expert, there are several ways to support a teenager who’s upset about needing braces . First, ensure they understand why they need to get braces in the first place. Describe what might happen if they don’t get braces—their teeth will grow more crooked, and they may need more intense intervention later in life. Next, help them identify their own reason why they need braces so they feel internally motivated to get them. For instance, perhaps they’re looking forward to having a straighter smile. Finally, highlight opportunities for choice, as adolescents naturally seek autonomy. For instance, they could pick what color bands to get.
Little does Raina know, however, that braces aren’t the only dental work she’ll be needing in the near future. One day, she trips and lands face-first onto the pavement. To her horror, her tumble leaves her two front teeth missing. She finds one of her teeth on the pavement, but the other is nowhere to be seen.
An emergency visit to the dentist reveals why Raina couldn’t find her other tooth on the pavement: The force of her fall lodged it high into her gums. The dentist pulls this tooth back into its original position, reinserts her knocked-out tooth, and covers her top row of teeth in a cast to help it heal for several days. (Shortform note: Experts estimate that around 25% of US adolescents and adults receive care for dental trauma like Raina’s at some point . Dental trauma includes losing teeth, chipping teeth, and damage to the lips, the tongue, the gums, or the bone that holds your teeth.)
Raina is full of dread before her next visit to the dentist. After the dentist removes her cast, Raina receives more bad news: Her two front teeth aren’t where they should be. X-rays reveal that her fall damaged the bones above her top row of teeth. As a result, her two front teeth are lodged high into her gums, making it look like those teeth are half the length of her others. Raina is devastated when she learns that she’ll need to make many more trips to the dentist to correct this problem.
Research on Managing Dental Fear The dread Raina feels before her dental appointment, and the devastation she feels upon learning she’ll need more trips to the dentist, is a common experience: More than half of people experience dental fear . This can lead people to procrastinate on scheduling dental appointments or avoid scheduling them altogether—which only worsens their oral health. Experts offer the following suggestions for managing dental fear : Relax your body. If you’re dealing with nervous...
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Shortform Exercise: Plan How to Support an Adolescent You Know
Telgemeier’s graphic novel shows both how difficult it is to be a teenager—as well as how rewarding it can be for teens to persist through their challenges and achieve confidence. Think about how you could support an adolescent in your life.
Think about a teenager in your life who is struggling with their confidence. (They could be your child, a family member, someone you work with, or someone you teach.) Note down who this teenager is, the confidence struggles they have, and why you think they may struggle in these areas.
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Table of Contents
This is what happened to comic artist Raina Telgemeier, who recounts her middle school years in her autobiographical graphic novel, Smile. Through her exploration of adolescence, self-consciousness, romance, and the horrors of dental work, Telgemeier sends an uplifting message: that you can achieve confidence by focusing less on your appearance and more on your interests. While Telgemeier’s graphic novel...
Smile Summary Part 1: 6th Grade
Supporting Youth Who Need Braces It’s common for children to have an overbite and get braces. Nearly 70% of US children have some degree of an overbite (though not every child with an overbite receives treatment), and 50 to 70% of US children get braces . It’s also common to dread getting braces, especially if you’re a teenager with concerns about your appearance. According to one expert, there are several ways to support a teenager who’s upset about needing braces ....
Smile Summary Part 2: 7th Grade
Raina’s teeth increase her self-consciousness.
In the first half of seventh grade, Raina’s teeth contribute to her feelings of self-consciousness . Her dentist shares the bad news that Raina’s braces are failing to pull her two front teeth down—therefore, she’ll need a different treatment that will require her to visit the dentist more frequently and get braces again. Raina spends weeks worrying about this new treatment and how “nerdy” she’ll look with braces. Her constant worrying makes it hard for her to pay attention at school.
(Shortform note: Raina’s weeks spent worrying about her teeth and how they’ll affect her appearance is an example of situational anxiety: a common type of anxiety that arises when you’re facing a specific, temporary challenge . Although Raina doesn’t seek treatment for her situational anxiety, experts claim that treatment can help. If your situational anxiety is serious, professionals may recommend anti-anxiety medication as a treatment. If your anxiety is less serious, they may recommend you try certain coping mechanisms, such as engaging in deep breathing, increasing...
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Smile Summary Part 3: 8th Grade
Raina’s crush on sean guides her choices.
Raina begins eighth grade focused on how she can win Sean’s attention, but her concerns about her appearance persist. Raina fantasizes about Sean kissing a more glammed-up version of herself—one who resembles a movie star with neatly-styled hair, clear skin, a great figure, and perfect teeth. When Raina snaps out of her fantasy, she reflects that due to her imperfect appearance, she likely won’t get to kiss Sean in the near future.
(Shortform note: When Raina fantasizes about Sean, she imagines an idealized version of herself rather than her current self. Some experts claim that imagining an idealized version of yourself boosts your ambition and success. For instance, self-help author Brian Tracy argues that [the most successful people have a clear image of their ideal self and use it as a goal to strive...
Smile Summary Part 4: 9th Grade
Raina faces social exclusion and more teasing.
Raina begins her first day of high school feeling more confident than usual: She likes how she looks in her new outfit, and her years of dental treatment have made her teeth look “almost-normal”—“almost” because she still has braces. (Shortform note: Braces were the most common way for teens to straighten their teeth in the late 90s and early 2000s when Raina was a teen. Today, teens have an additional option for straightening their smile: using clear plastic aligners . While many teens prefer the look of clear aligners over that of braces, these aligners have several drawbacks that braces don’t have—for instance, you have to be disciplined about cleaning them well and remembering to put them back in.)
Despite Raina feeling confident on her first day of high school, her confidence plummets when she joins her friends from eighth grade for lunch and overhears them reminiscing about summer plans that she hadn’t been invited to. This social exclusion soon escalates to hurtful teasing. Raina’s friends tease her when they see all of the items Raina has...
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Delightful graphic novel follows teen girl's teeth troubles.
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The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the autobiographical graphic novel Smile follows author Raina Telgemeier through her real-life experiences of having her teeth knocked out and the years of orthodontic work that follow during her early teen years. Because the story is true (although the names of the characters have been changed), not all of Raina's dilemmas are solved in the neatly wrapped-up way of most middle-grade novels, which may be disappointing to some readers. Although the cartoony drawings may indicate a light, fun story -- and there are certainly elements of that -- Smile is also a meaningful story of a teen's journey to self-acceptance.
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- Kids say (67)
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Fun read, but full of insecurity, bad friends, peer pressure that only improve on the last couple pages, what's the story.
Like many 12-year-olds, Raina is apprehensive about getting braces. But when she trips and knocks out her two front teeth, the fate of her teeth becomes even more traumatic. For the next four years, we follow Raina through many trips to the orthodontist, mouth surgeries, and a variety of dental contraptions. Meanwhile, Raina starts middle school, gets a crush on a boy who barely notices her, experiences the Loma Prieta Earthquake in San Francisco, and deals with friends who are not always supportive and are sometimes downright mean. As Raina's teeth go through extensive changes, Raina learns to stand up for herself and discovers that following her own interests, especially art, will lead to healthy friendships with people who like her for who she is.
Is It Any Good?
Telgemeier's simple, clean drawings in a soft color palette are easily accessible even to readers new to graphic novels, and there is also a rich, complex story to delve into. Raina's experiences with her teeth as she goes through middle and high school serve as an excellent metaphor for her life: Her teeth will never be perfect, but with a little work, they get a lot better. In SMILE, through incidents both meaningful and trivial that span the course of several years, we watch author and illustrator Raina Telgemeier grow up. Readers will enjoy figuring out that The Little Mermaid influenced Raina's future as a cartoonist, and they may relate to how Raina can always find comfort in the art room at school. But one of Smile's most outstanding qualities is its spot-on depiction of the subtle way middle school girls can undermine one another and how Raina eventually figures out when friends make her feel more bad than good, she shouldn't accept it.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how Raina's experiences with her teeth make her feel like a misfit. Have you ever gone through something that made you feel like you couldn't relate to your friends?
How does this graphic novel compare with others you've read? Do you react to it differently knowing that the story is from the author's real life?
Lots of friends tease each other playfully, but sometimes they can go too far, as Raina's friends did. What's off-limits for teasing among you and your friends?
- Author : Raina Telgemeier
- Illustrator : Raina Telgemeier
- Genre : Coming of Age
- Topics : Arts and Dance , Friendship
- Book type : Fiction
- Publisher : Scholastic Inc.
- Publication date : February 1, 2010
- Publisher's recommended age(s) : 9 - 17
- Number of pages : 224
- Available on : Paperback, Hardback
- Award : ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated : November 4, 2019
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Summary: Smile by Raina Telgemeier ... In her graphic memoir Smile, Raina is just trying to enjoy being a sixth grader when an accident severely
“Smile” is a young adult graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier. The story takes place in the sixth grade and follows a girl named Raina, who has an overbite that
Telgemeier is the writer and illustrator, while Stephanie Yue is the colorist. Smile is a coming-of-age tale, set in a San Francisco suburb from 1989 to 1992
Smile by Raina Telgemeier is the true autobiography of Raina. The story starts off when Raina is 11-years old, in the 6th grade and takes us on a four year
Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth, and what follows
Smile is a funny and relatable story about young Raina and her struggles through middle school and high school. Flag
this book will stay with me forever. and i will grow old with it. the humor and art combined with the raw emotion makes for the best graphic novel memoir I've
Through her exploration of adolescence, self-consciousness, and the horrors of dental work, Telgemeier sends an uplifting message: that you can achieve
It is a cute story about a teen girl's tooth tale, but it has things like bras, crushes, how a teenager needs to kiss her first boy, puberty, some other mature
The novel provides an account of the author's life, characterized by dental procedures and struggles with fitting in, from sixth grade to high school. The book