Will is a thinker who literally never stops running thoughts through his head which can be seen in the narrative. Between the first proton’s “death,” his new-found infatuation with his best friend Mi-Su, the new popularity of his other best friend BT, his annoying little sister Tabby and finally a tragedy that strikes his family, all Will can do to keep himself sane is think. He plans out every move he will make in the process learns that he’s been missing a whole lot with all this thinking and planning. Will’s epiphany towards the end of the novel gives him a whole new way to look at the world, one he never would have thought of on the first day after the death of the proton where his story begins. In Smiles to Go, Jerry Spinelli will have you laughing, and maybe even crying as you relate to the struggle of a teenage boy just trying to make sense of the toppling world around him.
Reading Level: Flesch-Kincaid Index 4.5
Teachers: Here are some resources and ideas to help you teach this book...
- Teacher's Guide: This guide contains discussion questions, curriculum connections and creative writing ideas.
- 5 Ideas: This site offers 5 different activities to connect with Smiles to Go. The site suggests parents and children do them together but the activities could easily be used in a classroom setting as well.
Before Reading: Based on the title and cover art what do you think this book will be about? (This is a good activity for this book because it is really hard to predict what the story will be about and it is important for students to know that every prediction they make will not necessarily be correct)
During Reading: Make a plan of how Will should go about telling Mi-Su how he feels. Explain why your plan is different or similar to Will's plan. Why do you think your plan would be effective?
After Reading: Do you think that Will is going to change after what happened with his sister? If yes, what will his new outlook on life be? How will his actions change? If no, explain why you think so. What ways will he go back to?
Across the Curriculum: There are many ways to connect science to this novel. Will talks a lot about protons, atoms, etc. Also, check my web resources, the teacher's guide contains connections to science.
Spinelli, J. (2008). Smiles to go . New York, NY: Joanna Cotler Books.
Happy Reading (&Running) =)