SMILE (Graphix/Scholastic 2010) is autobiographical. When Raina Telgemeier was a tween, she fell one evening coming home from her Girl Scout meeting and lost her two front teeth. Now, she is held hostage to a dental regimen that is nearly sadistic: corrective surgery, root canal, braces, and more. She lives a great deal of her early middle school years in dental hell. ALong the way, of course, puberty hits and Raina deals with all of the other ignominies: zits, unruly hair, crushes on boys, boys with unrequited crushes on her, and mean girlfriends. All of this is rendered in graphic novel format.
THE CRUISERS by Walter Dean Myers (Scholastic, August 2010) is the first in a new series that follows the exploits of Zander, LaShonda, Bobbi, and Kambui into the halls of the daVinci Academy for the Gifted and Talented in Harlem. This quartet is indeed talented though their grades might not always reflect those gifts. However, when a social studies teacher decides to begin a project on the Civil War, the four friends must find a way to diffuse the tensions that led to the original conflict. There are few series set in Harlem with a cast of characters from different races and ethnicities and SES groups, too. Myers has the kids face some interesting issues. Nothing is cut and dried either. There is much to discuss along the way.