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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Raina Telgemeier: beloved author of charming graphic novels

Isabelle Wang
A collection of Telgemeier’s characters from Smile, Sisters and Ghosts.

Rating: 4.8/5 Falcons

A true highlight of our elementary school days were the annual Scholastic book fairs, where for a couple of weeks, the school library was brilliantly transformed into a mini shop. Along with the little goodies and gadgets displayed in the front of the library, author Raina Telgemeier’s latest graphic novels were always in our baskets.

Telgemeier employs light-hearted, relatable plots. She bases many events in the books on her own experiences from childhood. Because her novels explore the everyday challenges of growing up,  they are relatable to her elementary and middle school audience. Additionally, she illustrates her own graphics, creating a comforting style that pairs well with her stories.

“Smile,” Telgemeier’s first webcomic, published in 2010, recounts her sixth-grade experience of accidentally knocking out her front teeth. Throughout the short 224-page novel, Telegemeier illustrates a typical yet complicated teenage life: struggling with school subjects, overcoming insecurities about her appearance and experiencing peer pressure from friends. Simple yet expressive facial expressions, combined with thought-provoking speech bubbles, create a comfortable and relaxing reading experience. 

The theme of relatability carries over to Telegemeier’s second work, “Sisters,” which covers her relationship with her younger siblings: Amara and Will. Unlike “Smile,” “Sisters” alternates between Telgemeier’s toddler and teenager years. Telegemeier explains her love-hate relationship with her sister, arguing over even the smallest of things but also connecting over their worries about their parents’ relationship. 

The bond between loved ones is shown through an ordinary family dynamic as they stick together through difficulties: Telegemeier’s dad losing his job, fighting over who gets the front seat in the car and debating over what pet to get. Since the story is based around a real family dynamic, the genre is similar to a slice of life. The reader is able to flip to any page of the book and become engaged.

Lastly, there’s “Ghosts,” one of the most iconic books of elementary school. The story centers around the sisters Catrina (Cat) and Maya as their family moves to the town of Bahía de la Luna. The transition of moving allows Maya to be unafraid of change and embrace whatever the next chapter of her life brings. 

The coverage is informative and diverse, with one of the main themes being the sisters’ Mexican heritage. Along with moving, the book covers exploration and appreciation for family culture. With the plot revolving around Day of the Dead, “Ghosts” uniquely explores the possibility of life after death. Maya’s cystic fibrosis is another major aspect of the story, which to the targeted audience of the novels, provides an introduction to the otherwise unknown disease.

Telegemeier’s combination of relatability, humor and relationships about changes in life drew us in as we were also encountering similar experiences. “Smile” brought us along the journey of transition from childhood to adulthood. “Sisters” shows how families stick together when they are struggling. Finally, “Ghosts” embraces cultural appreciation and confronts the changes that life brings head on. 

While these are only a few of the books Telgemeier has created, they all comforted us as kids with fascinating characters and creative graphics of various colors. Simply flipping through the novels again brings back nostalgic memories of us sitting in the library’s bean bags among friends.

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