Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Sunday, April 14, 2013

Plot Summary:
Duncan, a courageous knight, is given the opportunity to become the hero of the land and win the hand of the princess. With the help of Brother Patchwork, Duncan is not only handy with a sword, he is respected and loved by the people. However, he has been haunted by a dream of a woman, sitting alone with a bottle of Snappy Cola. Who this woman is, he's not sure, but when he defeats the Frog King, he finds, in a secret chamber, a bottle of Snappy Cola. Although Duncan should be happy that he will be marrying the princess, he can't shake the empty bottle sets out to find it. When he finds it in the hand of an awful ogre,  he learns that his existence has been a lie. For Gran'pa Greenbacks, his whole life was dedicated to making money and nothing could stop him from cheating people out of their money. When he forces his underpaid and abused worker, Filbert, to come with a "Get Rich Quick" scheme, this one is a sure fire way from him to get his pool full of gold. By creating the Church of the Eternal Smile, Gran'pa invests everything he has and what seemed like a success turned sour when his arch nemesis cheated him out of all that money. Rather than dealing with this like a rational person, he beats Filbert to death and Gran'pa learns the truth about who he is and what he has been missing this entire time. As for Janet, her dreary life has left her looking for adventure and meaning. When she gets an e-mail from the Prince of Nigeria asking her for money to help his family re-build his kingdom, she is glad to help. After being denied a promotion, and overhearing how her boss feels about her, she decides to invest everything in helping her Nigerian prince. The only problem is that every time he asks for help, her bank accounts are cleaned out and that is when she tells him that they must meet in person if he still asks for money. When he doesn't show up for their date, she goes looking for him and learns that her prince is not a prince at all, but a lonely college kid. Although he didn't know how she found him, she admits that she knew all along that this was a fantasy, but it was something to look forward to and hope it could be real. In this story are three different tales about individuals who are caught in a dream and are rudely awakened by reality whether they like it or not.

Critical Evaluation:
In this story of three dreamers is invigorating conversation about hopes, dreams, and consequences. Rather then dealing with this horrid home life, Duncan creates a fantasy where he is brave and people love him. After being beaten up by his mother's abusive boyfriend, Duncan is left in coma to grapple with the issues of his life and dreams. Although he could have stayed in the coma, he felt compelled to apologize to his mother after telling her that she "deserved to be beaten." Granted, his mother hasn't been a very good mother, Duncan's fantasy world has taught him about right and wrong, which leads him to the decision to wake up and start over. For Gran'pa, he had no idea that he was a puppet this whole time after learning about the children's television show and personality chip implanted in his brain. Believe it or not, Gran'pa lived a simple life in the pond near the studio that when he laid eyes on it all he could think about is being a part of it. In many ways, returning to the pond allows him the opportunity to learn about himself and find contentment in the life that was taken from him. Lastly, Janet's story is just as heartbreaking because she literally get taken advantage of just to feel alive. All she has ever wanted is to be seen and loved and, although, Prince Henry is really a college student who has been using her money to start a nonsensical business, Janet feels wanted and needed. When she finally confronts Henry/Steve, she forces him to wear traditional African garb and pretend he kept his promise knowing that this was just a fantasy that she wanted to come true. However, after getting to know Steve, she realizes that the only way to make her dreams come true is to prove to everyone that she has what it takes and she can succeed. In all of these stories, dreams were an escape, but those dreams could only provide a temporary relief. The only way these characters can resolve these issues is to make difficult choices that are scary, but necessary. This book was definitely a poignant story where we can all learn a few things and remember that if we want something bad enough, we can make it happen regardless of the obstacles that are keeping us from what we know is right.

Information about the Author:
According to their websites:
Gene Luen Yang:
I began publishing comic books under the name Humble Comics in 1996. In 1997, I got the Xeric Grant for Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks. (If you’re interested in creating comics yourself, check out the Xeric Foundation. They’re a great organization!) Since then I’ve written and drawn a number of stories in comics. American Born Chinese, released by First Second Books in 2006, became the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award. It also won an Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album – New. The Eternal Smile, a collaborative project I did with Derek Kirk Kim in 2009, won an Eisner as well. Dark Horse Comics is currently publishing a comics continuation of Nickelodeon’s popular Avatar: The Last Airbender, with art by Gurihiru and story by Mike DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, and me.  In September of 2013, First Second Books will release my two-volume graphic novel project Boxers & Saints.
I teach at Hamline University as part of their MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.
Derek Kirk Kim:
Derek Kirk Kim (born 1974) is an award-winning Korean-American writer, cartoonist, and filmmaker. He is the writer of TUNE and the writer and director of the spin-off webseries, Mythomania. He won both major comics industry awards in 2004, the Eisner and the Harvey, for his debut graphic novel Same Difference and Other Stories, which was originally serialized on his website Lowbright( formerly known as "Small Stories"). He also won the Ignatz Award for promising new talent, in 2003, for the same graphic novel (which was originally published with the help of a 2002 Xeric Award).

Teen Graphic Novels

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar The Eternal Smile:
 Awards & Recognition:
  • Starred Review in Booklist
  • Starred Review in Hornbook
  • Starred Review in Publisher's Weekly
  • Starred Review in School Library Journal

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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