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So many kids get braces. I’m one of the kids who didn’t and is now jealous of all the people with beautiful, perfect, straight teeth.

But that’s not the point of this discussion. 🙂

Rather, I want to talk about a cool thing I’ve realized. Awesome adults are writing memoirs about their experiences as middle graders and teens. And the coolest part – they’re writing them for middle graders and teens and they’re writing and publishing them as graphic novels! These real life experiences are so accessible to kids because they’re being put into the world in formats that are easy and fun for kids to read.

I just read Smile by Raina Telgemeier and, dang, it was so fun. I couldn’t put it down. I read Smile and its companion Sisters in less than two days. They were fun and funny and sweet and also pretty deep too.

Smile is Raina’s memoir about her dental journey. When she was 11, she tripped and fell and wrecked her two front teeth. Not a pleasant thing to happen to anyone, least of all a girl on the edge of puberty and a world where your physical appearance can have a huge impact on self-esteem. Over the following months and years, Raina had surgeries and braces and headgear (!!) and false teeth and so much dental work done. Along with all that, she dealt with all the norms of middle school too – teasing and bullying, crushes, schoolwork, siblings, and friendship ups and downs.

This book was both educational (Raina didn’t rely just on her memory, but definitely did some serious dental research to make sure she was presenting things accurately) and amusing and also reminded me of my middle school and high school days of trying to find my place amongst my friends and classmates.

Smile might be just the book for your middle grader or high schooler who is hesitant about their own dental work. Or, if your kiddos have friends with braces and are asking questions (or maybe making fun?) this might be a good book for them to try out.

It’s not preachy, it’s not boring. It’s a personal story of what her life was like, as she remembers, during that time.

The companion book, Sisters, is another memoir that details Raina and her sister Amara’s relationship. It jumps between the “present” of the book, when Raina is about thirteen, and her memories of growing up with her little sister. The memories start when Raina tells her parents she wants a little sister. The story covers a ton of ground related to sibling relationships, differences between siblings, family pets, family reunions, and even touches on how kids deal with the outcome of marital problems in their parents’ relationship.

Like I said, these books are both light and deep. They definitely deserve all the awards they’ve won.

I was going to put them back into a Little Free Library, but I’m going to hold off for a bit because I think I’m going to want to read these again. I flew through them this first read, and I want to go through them more slowly on a second read so I can notice the nuance.

Smile & Sisters by Raina TelgemeierBooks: Smile / Sisters
Author: Raina Telgemeier (she also drew the books!)
Published: February 1, 2010 / August 26, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic & Graphix
Genre: Middle Grade Graphic Novel
Format: Paperback
Source: Little Free Library


SMILE: 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 is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there’s still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly. This coming-of-age true story is sure to resonate with anyone who has ever been in middle school, and especially those who have ever had a bit of their own dental drama. (Goodreads)

SISTERS: Three weeks. Two sisters. One car. A True Story

Raina can’t wait to be a big sister. But once Amara is born, things aren’t quite how she expected them to be. Amara is cute, but she’s also a cranky, grouchy baby, and mostly prefers to play by herself. Their relationship doesn’t improve much over the years, but when a baby brother enters the picture and later, when something doesn’t seem right between their parents, they realize they must figure out how to get along. They are sisters, after all.

Raina uses her signature humor and charm in both present-day narrative and perfectly placed flashbacks to tell the story of her relationship with her sister, which unfolds during the course of a road trip from their home in San Francisco to a family reunion in Colorado. (Goodreads)

Interested? Get a copy today: Book Depository | | Indigo

Raina Telgemeier has a new book in this series coming out in September 2019: Guts is available for pre-order.

Related Post: Real Friends by Shannon Hale

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Did you have braces as a kid? What was your experience like?

Memoirs for middle grade readers - and they're graphic novels too! on | photo of Smile, Sisters and Drama by Raina Telgemeier in a blue tote bag


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