Wednesday 8 August 2018

Smile & Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Smile and Sisters have been two very popular books at work with 11-14 year old girls. Now I see why. Raina Telgemeier has created two very personal, engaging stories from two significant events in her pre-teen years. Smile details her rather horrific orthodontic work, while Sisters not only features her relationship with her younger sister, but explores a period of time in her early teen years when their parents marriage was on the rocks.

Most of us have a ghastly orthodontist story from our childhood, but not many readers would be able to take on Telgemeier's lengthy, painful and traumatic experiences in the dental chair. Via her and artwork, Telgemeier shows us the ordinariness of teen life as well as the individual self-consciousness that infects most teens anywhere in the world. She explores image, belonging (I was so glad when she finally moved on from that first group of friends - they were awful) and embracing who you are.

It was a surprisingly touching coming of age story with bucket loads of courage and perseverance.

Sisters wasn't quite as success to my mind. Here Telgemeier explores why her relationship with her sister may have been strained throughout their younger years. It felt believable and authentic, but also a little like she was stretching to find another book.

We've all had those challenging relationships with siblings at different times, when two very different personalities constantly rub up against each in daily family life. Sometimes things improve when you're no longer living together under the one roof; sometimes things don't.

But the thing that can bring you together is shared fear and shared adversity - when you think your parents may be about to split up.

In this case, Raina gave her sister a draft of this story several years prior to publication for approval. She also allowed Amara a chance to share insights into her side of the story.

I'm not normally a big fan of graphic novels, but these two books were easy to read and I really liked the colourful artwork. The simple designs were capable of conveying quite a lot of emotion.

Smile was the winner of the Eisner Award for Best Publication for a Teen Audience in 2011 and a finalist for the Children’s Choice Book Award.

Sisters won the Eisner Award for Best Writer/Artist in 2015.

Books 15 & 16 of my #20BooksofSummer (winter) challenge - drop-in titles
25℃ in Sydney
16℃ in Northern Ireland
I read these books during the July #reversereadathon


  1. They look very attractively drawn. I'm not very good at graphic novels because I zip through the words and forget to look at the pictures properly!

    1. I was doing that too Liz, until I got to the lovely full page pic of San Francisco in the photo above. It was then I realised that I needed to slow down and look closer :-)


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