Raina Telgemeier is one of the most asked after authors in the children’s area of the library. It’s understandable too. She wrote Smile, and ever-popular award-winning book, revamped the 90s era Baby-sitter’s Club series in graphic novel format and wrote Ghosts, a recent publication and one of the CPL 2017/2018 Battle of the Books titles. Upon checking out Drama this month, my reading of each of Telgemeier’s original works is complete.
My life is one dental incident after another. I had multiple dental surgeries as part of the braces process and the struggle continues even now, as I am in-between procedures for getting a permanent crown attached to a tooth I broke as a child. For those reasons, I knew I would love Smile before I read it. It is a book about a girl who undergoes a dental tragedy, and consequently faces many dental surgeries as well as teasing for her smile’s condition. I even extend my deep connection to the story to the author herself, as this dental nightmare is a semi-autobiographical story. My only regret is that this book didn’t exist when I was younger…
The one issue I had with Drama, if you can even call it a true problem, is that everything occurring in the book reminded me distinctly of high school, rather than middle school. Do middle schoolers really get this much responsibility in school plays?? My brief stint in my high school theater department, which included taking the intro to theater class and the occasional after school contribution during my sophomore year, was vividly remembered after reading this book. Plus, after my year of theater, I had a few friends still involved in the plays that kept me up to date on all the drama department’s drama. This book gets it right. Drama doesn’t have the heart-warming effects of Smile or Ghosts, but it has plenty of memorable tween/teen moments that make it clear why Telgemeier’s books connect with so many.
For those who don’t identify with the events in Smile, Sisters is a sequel with a broader conflict: sibling rivalry. Even if you don’t have siblings, you probably have friends with siblings, and the experience with those siblings makes this book identifiable. Sisters includes a road trip with two sisters who, most of the time, hate each other. It was a disaster waiting to happen.
This is my favorite of Telgemeier’s books. The illustrations are outstanding, even more so than usual; check out the illustrations for the Día de los Muertos celebration and you’ll understand what I mean. This book discusses death in a gentle way that makes it a reasonable introduction to the subject for children. It provides a multicultural perspective and background; it truly feels like Telgemeier did her research to make this Latin American community stand out. And, true to a Telgemeier novel, it has a young female lead with who readers will have no trouble connecting.