Last weekend, I went to the Small Press Expo to take a look at some indie comics. I also went to see Raina Telgemeier (the author of the BSC graphic novels) speak about writing comics for kids. She appeared with fellow cartoonist, Gene Yang, author of American Born Chinese. She and Yang were both wonderful and charming. I ended up buying a copy of Telgemeier’s Eisner Award winning graphic novel, Smile. It is wonderful.
And she signed it!
Smile is an autobiographical graphic novel based on Raina Telgemeier’s own dental experiences as a sixth grader. After a Girl Scout meeting one night, she tripped, fell, and knocked out her two front teeth. What followed was a nearly four year journey of dental surgeries, braces, and fake teeth.
Beyond the dental drama, Raina also deals with the changing nature of her friendships and with her first crush(es), and fear after the 1989 earthquake that rocked Northern California. (Raina was raised in San Francisco, and the book’s title page has an amazing drawing of the San Francisco city scape.)
Much like with the Babysitters Club graphic novels, this is delightful not only because the story is, but because the illustrations are as well. I’m somewhat a newbie to the world of comic and graphic novels, and the difference in appreciating a good graphic novel is that you can’t just pay attention to the words. The words and the drawings both need to be good, but they also need to match the tone of the book. Raina Telgemeier manages this perfectly. Her lines are uncomplicated but really beautiful and perfect for a middle-grade book.
If your kids are unsure about graphic novels, this would be a great way to get them interested. Especially girls, who are more likely to turn away from the superhero fare that is sometimes synonymous with comics. Me? I have boys (and my almost seven year old is already a comics geek), but I’m still planning on checking out the other offerings by Scholastic Graphix, and I’ll be making the Small Press Expo an annual journey.