In this companion memoir to the #1 New York Times bestselling Smile, Raina Telgemeier tells the story of her relationship with her sister. Even though Raina and Amara both love to draw, they are very different from one another, and disagree on pretty much everything. A family road trip from San Francisco to Colorado means the two are stuck with each other, and their mother can’t do much to stop the bickering. Still, after a week of traveling nonstop and a family reunion, Raina realizes that sometimes your sister understands (and maybe even loves) you better than anyone else.
About Raina Telgemeier
Raina Telgemeier is the author and illustrator of the graphic novels Smile and Drama, both #1 New York Times bestsellers. She adapted and illustrated graphic novel versions of four of Ann M. Martin’s Baby-sitters Club books, and has contributed short stories to many anthologies. Raina’s accolades include an Eisner Award, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, a Stonewall Honor, and many Best Of and Notable lists. Raina lives and works in Astoria, NY, with her cartoonist husband, Dave Roman.
Sisters takes place during different timelines, one focusing on the family road trip between San Francisco and Colorado. The others are a series of flashbacks to different times in Raina’s past. Why do you think the author decided to tell her story this way? How can you tell, from either the words or the pictures, which time period it is?
Which moments make Raina regret wishing for a sister? Which moments convince her having a sister is worth the aggravation?
Look at the full-page illustrations that appear between some sections throughout the book. What do these images tell you that you don’t learn elsewhere in the book? Why do you think the author chose to highlight these objects?
Consider how Raina feels about Amara at the beginning of the road trip and how she feels at the end. Do you think the road trip changed their attitudes? Identify three turning points in their relationship.
In comics, words and sounds are drawn or colored to signal how they sound. What do the styles of the word balloons, colors, and lettering tell you? Look at pages 108-109 for examples. What makes something a scream? A thought? A song? How do these add to the story?
Raina escapes her family’s crowded apartment and the confines of the van by listening to her Walkman. How does music help her relationships with her family? How does it hurt those relationships?
Consider Raina and Amara. What are three things that you see as appealing about Raina as a person? About Amara? What do you think they would list as three good (or bad) things about each other at the beginning of the story? What about at the end?
Sisters is a companion book to Raina Telgemeier’s memoir Smile, a story about Raina’s front teeth getting severely injured. How do the stories in Sisters fit together with those in Smile? How does reading both books give you a more complex picture of Raina and her family?
Compare Raina’s immediate family, including her mom, dad, brother, and sister, to her aunts, uncles, and cousins Josh, Jeremy, and Lindsay. How do Raina’s expectations for hanging out with her cousins compare to the reality? What does she learn about family, both good and bad?
Consider the fight that Raina and Amara have on pages 136 through 139. When Amara says, “You’re not being nice. You’re just feeling sorry for yourself,” what do you think she’s trying to tell Raina? What does Raina learn from that accusation?
This guide was written by Robin E. Brenner, a Teen Librarian at the Brookline Public Library in Massachusetts who has chaired many award committees, including the ALA Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee. She blogs for Good Comics for Kids at SLJ, and gives lectures and workshops on graphic novels. Her guide, Understanding Manga and Anime (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), was nominated for a 2008 Eisner Award.
Common Core Standards Used in This Guide for Grades 4–7
Reading Literature Key Ideas and Details – RL 4-7.1, 4-7.2, 4-7.3
Craft and Structure – RL 5-6.5, 5.6
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas – RL 4-5.7
Speaking and Listening Comprehension and Collaboration – SL 4-5.1a, 4-5.1b, 4-5.1c, 4-5.1d, 6-7.1, 6-7.2, 6-7.3