First of all, the art is great- super fun and engaging. It certainly drew me in. Smile is about Raina, a middle-school girl who is going through the awkward stage that so many girls can relate to. She has an accident that leaves her with a dental issue that makes her look different from her peers. I could really relate to this girl's frustration about the crossover between her dental damage and her coming-of-age story- I have been going through through the process of getting a dental implant which leaves me toothless for long periods of time. I also had an accident when I was a young girl where I had my front tooth fall out (which lead to my current problems...), and I could relate to some very specific concerns that Raina had- when she talked about her dental cast, I had flashbacks to my own dental cast.
Through the process of having her teeth fixed, Raina learns about the true meaning of friendship, family, and the importance of being yourself.
After reading Smile so quickly, I decided to grab Sisters, which you can purchase in a boxed set with Smile. As the title suggests, this story follows Raina and her sister Amara. The family is taking a road trip to visit family, and the story flashes back to important times in their relationship as they grew up. The girls don't get along, but as they reflect on their changing family situation they come to an appreciation of one another. While this graphic novel was charming and had hilarious moments (look for "the incident" of the snake), I didn't think that it compared to the charm of Smile.
Food for thought... Do you read graphic novels? Have you ever used them in the classroom? What are some graphic novel titles that you can suggest?