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Back last year, I did a full review of the Bone graphic novel saga by Jeff Smith, one of the best graphic novelists I know. In case you don’t have time for playbacks, here’s what I scored each book (remember, this was the old template):

  • Out from Boneville – “an energetic start to a great graphic novel series…” (20/30)
  • The Great Cow Race – “…the best book of the pack!” (30/30)
  • Eyes of the Storm – “…the darkest addition yet.” (24.5/30)
  • The Dragonslayer – “…may not be the best Bone book since The Great Cow Race, but it’s a full-fleshed attempt at it” (24/30)
  • Rock Jaw – “…great premise and dazzling excitements” (22/30)
  • Old Man’s Cave – “…a barbaric warrior…with well-played action, adventure, and drama” (26/30)
  • Ghost Circles – “…a good wallop of laughs, action, adventure, and excitement that will definitely go into the scrapbook.” (23.1/30)
  • Treasure Hunters – “…solely the lowlight of the Bone saga.” (17.5/30)
  • Crown of Horns – “…a mightily entertaining–and epic–conclusion.” (23/30)

Now I’m back to review another graphic novel, from the same Scholastic imprint that’s been with Mr. Smith since the start. This one has to be one of the most unique comic novels I’ve ever read–and it’s not just because it introduces a new writing style or has vivid pictures. It has both of those, don’t get me wrong. But here’s the reason why it really stuck out to me–it’s not a wild over-the-top fantasy like Bone or Amulet–it’s an autobiographical story, a memoir! Eat Pray LoveDiary of a Young GirlRunning With ScissorsMarley & Me: A Dog Like No Other, those are all memoirs. But none of those tell a story quite like this.

Released in February 2010 by Raina Telgemeier and Scholastic/Graphix, and based off of Smile: A Dental Drama, a webcomic created by Telgemeier, Smile is an auto-bio that takes place during the 1980s and early 1990s, following Raina’s years from a preteen to a real teen. One night after a Girl Scout meeting, Raina’s friends race her to the porch. However, Raina trips and falls right onto the side of the road, busting out one of her front teeth and jamming the other up into her gum. What follows is nearly five years of on-off braces, surgery, ignominious headgear, even a retainer with false teeth! However, Raina’s dental drama is only a portion of her problems–a gnarly earthquake leaves her town shaken and stirred, Raina begins to notice two big crushes, and friends who turn out to be not very friendly. The story evolves with Raina as she goes into high school, finds her true artistic voice and real friendship, and finds a place where she can really smile.

Check out this interesting picture of Raina that offers an inside look at her teeth! I’ll have you know folks, this was in summer 1989! She was 12 years old!

PRESENTATION: Smile was the breakthrough for an inglorious author, and it’s easy to see why. Raina tells her story clearly without any narrative exposition (okay, so a few helpful names here and there), and she writes it in such a way that you can feel the emotions she’s feeling. The terror in her eyes during the earthquake when the floor begins to tremble under her feet. The amazement in her eyes when she sees The Little Mermaid for the first time. The sorrow in her eyes when she has to replace her real teeth with false teeth. The anger in her eyes when she stands up to her not-so-friendly friends. Raina tells this story impeccably and powerfully, in a way that’s just as unique as the premise itself. The illustrating work done with Raina and Steph Yue (whom provided the pictures’ color) has to be one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen in a graphic novel. Not as simplistic as Captain Underpants, not as detailed as Bone, but a nice balance in between the two. (10/10)

STORY: Same main ideas. Also, some people may be able to relate to the story such as people who are bullied at school, going through orthodontic treatment, and the like. (10/10)

FUN: Raina cracks a few jokes here and there to keep readers smiling. Also, since Raina’s story takes place in the 80’s and 90’s, there are tons of pop culture references, some more blatant than others. Raina owns an NES and is seen playing Super Mario Bros and Wizards & Warriors. Raina’s sister unsuccessfully tries to persuade her to buy DuckTales. Q*bertKid Icarus, and NES Soccer also make cameo appearances at the store. (10/10)

STYLE: Time for some restating. The humor and drama come in packs, and Smile puts up a fine balance between light-hearted humor and realistic drama. The book has ravishing illustrations that make everything look more down-to-earth. (10/10)

QUANTITY/QUALITY: Smile may not be told in real chapters, but it feels like Raina’s life is being told step by step, chapter by chapter, week by week. It has a great story to tell, and the quality of it is–dude, we’ve been over this. Giddy humor, raw drama, amazing illustrations, great connections, blah blah blah.  (10/10)

FINAL VERDICT: Smile is one of the best graphic novels you’ll ever read, telling a powerful story mixed with giddy humor and realistic drama and emotion, topped off with great illustrations that make this book a true gem among Scholastic’s Graphix lineup. (10/10)

FINAL SCORE: I, Sammwak, am proud to give Raina Telgemeier’s Smile the first ever JGB 2.0 perfect score, 60/60, which gets it an automatic A+. Raina really deserved it, but hopefully after her Girl Scout meetings she remembers to walk to the porch this time. Heck, to show you how good this book really is, I’m gonna give it a seal of approval!


Anyway, that’s a wrap for this week here at Sammwak! Have an awesome Spring Break, and I’ll see you next week (hopefully)!

Stay classy America,

~S~ 😎

Video of the Week: I was gonna put up a Harlem Shake this week, but then today my art teacher showed me this. It’s a 6-minute short film called Pigeon Impossible, about a young man who is a rookie secret agent I’ll call Discount Jake Gyllenhaal. Now, Discount Jake here is dealing with a problem that most rookies don’t come around–what happens when an inquisitive little pigeon makes its way inside your nuclear, government-issued, multi-million-dollar briefcase? Find out in this video that’s already gone viral with 1.8 million hits.

Oh, what the hey, here’s the greatest Harlem Shake you’ll probably ever see in the history of the universe EVER. Also, it might be the final Harlem Shake. Take a click to see why.

Hey guys it’s Sam, sorry for the hiatus, I have been whipping up some new videos with my webcam! 😀 Anyways, I’m back with another YouTube Treasure (sorry if they’re getting old). I know. We’ve been having a YouTube fest. Emma Watson socking an interviewer, a finger frenzy, all the videos I included in my 4th of July celebratory post. I guess, now it’s more LOL! 😉 Now, this treasure is a test. An ultimate test…no, the ultimate test. The hardest challenge you’ll ever take. Harder than the Moron Test, even. Can you sit through these videos without laughing your head off? If you can, you are not only titled “stone hearted”, but you get two legendary Sammwak collectibles: an actual stone heart, and the pork pie hat of Buster Keaton, who in the 1900’s, was known as the “Great Stone Face”!

The videos, in their order, were a 4-second animation of the Rage Guy (published by sr50cent). For Rage fans, this video is hilarious, so why did it get only 130,000 views (since Sep 2010)?! It’s the best 4 seconds of your life; you just don’t know it yet. Sometime in the middle of the night you’ll wake up screaming, “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUU” I just know you will.

The next one was a video from August 2009, with publisher bramslaets daring the viewer to watch it without laughing. (It’s really called, “try to watch this without laughing”. It had 2 years to become the next Nyan Cat, but it only racked up half a million views! How can you not enjoy a prancing rainbow Bunchie? When I first saw this, I was ROFLMFAO. Even Fick said, “Thanks to this video, I dream happy dreams of me dancing with Bunchies on a rainbow, thanks to this video” on Facebrook the other day.

The next one was a scene from the timeless comedy Napoleon Dynamite, when he dances his illegal government ninja butt off! There’s actually an awful lot of copies of the scene, let alone them being remade (one from mauricio890 getting over 2 million views!), but the real one from markthehat66 scored over half a million views since December 2010, which is pretty strong for a 6-month duration of time to get viral. (770,000 to be exact) And according to the video’s page on YouTube, it said that the video was seen on the channel The Stranger, Seattle’s Only Newspaper. Now that would be an article I’d tune into.

A “fans-have-been-waiting-for-this-so-long” video of Joe Jonas dancing to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” was next, racking up over 25 million views since June 2009 (a 2 week countdown to the release of their album, Lines, Vines, and Trying Times) coincidentally from JonasBrothersMusic. For 2 years for viral possibilities, that has to be one of the biggest online breakthroughs I’ve seen! (Shane Dawson even reacted to it!) It’s like “Bieber After the Dentist”—it had only one viral-possibility year, and look how well it did! 32 million views well!

The penultimate video, an Autotuned remix of CopperCab’s timeless “GINGERS DO HAVE SOULS!!” video, racked up 4 million views since February 2010 (coincidentally my birth month!) thanks to publisher placeboing. This has quickly become my most favorable Autotune remix ever (the grooviest, funniest, and second-shortest too)! And they obviously have to allow downloadable MP3 at Mediafire.com! But this will probably teach you a good message. You’ll wake up at midnight, saying, “Oh, gingers DO have souls!”

The final video, and the oldest, coolest, and EPIC WIN-est, dates all the way back to November 2005 from superbkid! It’s apparently a message, at a theater, before beginning 2005’s Chicken Little (conveniently, released in November!), telling the audience to turn off their phones in the most innovative way possible…Chicken Little dancing his tail feather off to O-Zone’s “Numa Numa”! Then, obviously, his phone rings halfway through the dance which leads him to get smushed. That’s 6 years ago, and it racked up a mind blowing 15 million views!…which is what I expected for a video like this. 😀 😀 😀


So, tell me guys: when did you laugh? (Leave a comment telling me when!) Don’t fake it. I know you cracked up one way or another. If you didn’t…slap yourself upside the head and get a sense of humor, buster! Just kidding…but seriously. If you didn’t crack a smile through the whole show…then congratulations! You have earned this achievement!…

Stone Hearted – Think you got what it takes to complete the ultimate test? Sit through the videos without cracking a smile! (50 BP)

…and these dandy collectible, again, a stone heart… …and the pork pie hat of the Great Stone Face himself, Buster Keaton! Absolutely priceless upon your success!

Check back for more tests, more treasures, and more time with me here at Sammwak!

– Sam

p.s. I’m going to be learning at VBS (Vacation Bible School) this coming week starting tomorrow (which means sleeping 9:00 pm-early >:-o), and this year’s theme is Operation Space! (Last year was The Egypt File, and the year before that was Gadget’s Garage, and so on.) So, first we contacted with God through a teen genius and his robot, then we contacted him in an Egyptian pyramid style, and now we contact with him in an intergalactic style? St. Mike just isn’t running out of ideas. 😉