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Smile So Big

by Sunshine Quem Tenasco and Chief Lady Bird (ill.)

l to r: Sunshine Quem Tenasco and Chief Lady Bird

Challa, a young Anishinaabe girl, has a big, toothy smile that can light up a room. Unfortunately, the kids at school tease her about her smile. One day, she comes home from school in tears because of the teasing, and her mother gifts her a beautiful, beaded mirror that has been passed down through the generations.

The mirror has special powers. When a person looks at their reflection and tells the mirror what they see, it will display their true self. Challa’s mom asks her to do just that and to “say it loud and say it proud!”

Challa peers into the mirror and says that she has a big smile and looks cute. The mirror lights up a bit, and Challa immediately feels better. She then runs to see her friends, who have also been teased about various things, and encourages them to look in the mirror and see their beauty reflected back. When they do, there is an enormous response: the mirror lights up and the ground shakes. This leaves Challa wondering why there wasn’t an enormous response when she spoke to the mirror.

She looks into the mirror again and mentions her beautiful eyes, nose, hair, and dimples. Nothing happens, but she continues to see her beauty. She begins to smile bigger and bigger. She finally screams that she loves her smile, and the entire town shakes. The book ends with Challa never being troubled by her smile again, as she discovers that magic lives within the love she holds for herself.

This is a beautiful story of the importance of self acceptance, self empowerment, and self love – lessons that every child should hear. Tenasco’s writing is lyrical and expressive, and Chief Lady Bird’s illustrations are bright, cheery, and colourful, infused with lovely Anishinaabe symbolism.

This book is highly recommended for home and school libraries.


Reviewer: Colette Poitras

Publisher: North Winds Press


Price: $21.99

Page Count: 32 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 978-1-44318-767-1

Released: March

Issue Date: March 2023

Categories: Kids’ Books, Picture Books

Age Range: 4–8