Smile, Raina Telgemeier, graphic novel for girls

4th Grade Book Club: Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Graphic Novels for Girls

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

From the artist of BSC Graphix comes this humorous coming-of-age true story about the dental drama that ensues after a trip-and-fall mishap.

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. 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 was a fun book that we both were able to read quickly. It’s a graphic novel autobiography of author Raina Telgemeier’s challenging middle school and high school years fraught with challenges of dental issues from knocking out her front teeth but also social issues from finding a group of friends, surviving an earthquake, crushing on a boy and other typical painful adolescent transitions.

My book club is 4th grade, and though the book seems suitable for a middle school audience, there is something about this graphic novel that makes younger kids also relate to it. We are excited to find out what her friends think about this book and we’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

To view Smile at Amazon, please click on image of book cover.

I am trying to sneak in a book club before the school year ends; it’s coming up so quickly but it seems that everyone is around Memorial Weekend so it just may work after all.

My daughter picked Smile by Raina Telgemeier for a couple of reasons:

  • None of her friends have read it yet. The surprise factor is really important to her.
  • She thought it was really funny.
  • We haven’t done a graphic novel ever in her book club, so this is a first.
  • It’s a quick read since we are not giving much notice. I hope the books come quickly!

All good, but now the rubber meets the road. Ugh? What am I going to do for a tie-in activity?

1) We can watch the trailer. It’s a fun way to review the book. Great idea. This will take up 1 minute and 51 seconds. Good but not long enough…

2) If I can hire our art tutor, we can learn to cartoon … I’ll have to check with PickyKidPix to see if that is acceptable and if he is available. The girls in the book club are not that artsy though. They are sporty girls. They also like to cook.

Phew, my daughter was game to cartoon!

3) I found these questions at Peirce County Library to lead a discussion.

Youth Book Club Kit Questions: Smile by Raina Telgemeier

  • Smile is a graphic novel, have you read these types of books before? Was reading a graphic novel different than reading a text novel, how so? Would this book have been better or worse without the pictures?
  • Does this story take place during present day? What are the clues in the story that let the reader know when the book takes place? (For example; no cell phones, older style of clothing, etc.)
  • Are you afraid of the dentist? Why do you think so many people are? Ask everyone to share their funniest or most unpleasant dentist story.
  • Have you ever had braces? How long did you have them? What is the worst thing about them?
  • In Smile, Raina deals with a lot of issues besides her teeth. What are some of the other difficult things that are going on in Raina’s life?
  • Is Raina’s experience of middle school realistic? Are there things that happen to Raina that have happened to you or someone you know?
  • Raina has lots of embarrassing moments in middle school, how did she deal with them? What do you do when you are embarrassed at school?
  • How do feel about Raina’s friends in the book? How do they treat her? What causes Raina to “break up” with her friends? How should good friends treat each other? How do you tell the difference between friends playfully teasing each other and people just being mean?
  • When Raina finally gets her braces off, she thinks she looks weird. Why?
  • Why do you think the author named the book Smile? Where does the word smile come up in the book?

6) Oh, I didn’t realize she won a Horn Book Award for Smile. Not sure if the kids will want to watch this but it’s nice to meet the author! We can watch this interview!

7) Make Fake Teeth?!

  1. Buy some plastic cups. These cups should be made out of white, thin, disposeable plastic.
  2. Draw the shape of the teeth. Take a Sharpie/permanent marker and draw the desired shape of your teeth on the outside of the plastic cup.
  3.  Cut out your teeth. Get a sharp pair of scissors and cut along the lines you’ve drawn until you’ve cut out your teeth completely.
  4. Put them on. The best place to put them in are behind your upper lip and in front of your teeth, where they can’t fall out and they’re secure.
  5. Smile, and go trick your friends!
    I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out! For snacks, we can eat some of the things you can’t eat with braces from Parenthood. None of the girls have braces on right now.Here are your braces’ biggest enemies:
      • Apples: Don’t bite into a whole one! Cut it into thin wedges first.
      • Bagels and hard rolls: Convicted culprits of bending wires and loosening brackets.
      • Beef jerky: Your braces don’t stand a chance against this leathery food.
      • Bubble gum: Trust us, there’s nothing worse than spending hours picking gum from your braces.
      • Candy canes or suckers: You might weaken and take a bite!
      • Caramels and chewy candies: And you thought bubble gum was messy.
      • Chicken wings: You can enjoy these if you first cut the meat off the bone.
      • Corn chips: Anything that crunches when you bite it is bad news for braces.
      • Corn on the cob: If you must, remove the kernels from the cob with a knife, then enjoy!
      • Fingernails: Now’s the perfect time to kick that bad habit.
      • Fruit Roll-Ups: See bubble gum.
      • Gummi anything: See bubble gum.
      • Hard candies: Can loosen wires and dislodge brackets.
      • Hard cookies: Good news: You can have these if you soften them with milk.
      • Ice cubes: No crunching!
      • Nuts: All varieties—including peanuts, cashews and almonds—are off limits.
      • Pears: Just like you would with apples, cut them into thin wedges first.
      • Peanut brittle: Anything that crunches when you bite it is bad news for braces. 
      • Pens and pencils: Don’t laugh, a lot of students can’t stop chewing on these inedible school supplies.
      • Pickles: If you have a craving, cut them into bite-sized pieces
      • Popcorn: Great with movies, bad with braces.
      • Pizza Crust: Good news: the rest of the pie is fine!
      • Pretzels: Bends wires, loosens bands and knocks off brackets
      • Raw carrots: If have a Bugs Bunny-like adoration for these orange veggies, steam or boil them for a much less crunchy consistency.
      • Ribs: Just like you would with chicken wings, take the meat off the bone first.
      • Sugary candy: Can lodge beneath brackets and wires, leading to tooth decay.
      • Taffy: It’s best to avoid this stuff entirely—even if you don’t have braces!

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Artchoo

    I love the fake teeth idea! You could always rig up some headgears for them to wear….
    Artchoo recently posted…Kid Made Modern Giveaway!!!My Profile

    • Hi Artchoo,
      I hired our art tutor to do a cartooning lesson with the girls and I will get the materials to make the fake teeth. It does sound fun and kind of loopy … just like the book!

  2. Ann

    I wish I was coming to this book club! Sounds so fun!!!
    Ann recently posted…13 Spooky Reads!My Profile

  3. Loved this book, too! Great tie-in activities!

  4. Nick

    I do Book Club where I teach. It’s mostly 4th graders in the group and I was struggling to come up with ideas for this book! Great ideas here! Thanks so much!

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