Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang and Derk Kirk Kim

Book Jacket

Meet Duncan.  Charming and brave, he's the Princess's favorite--and he's on his way to winning the throne.  But lately, the walls of reality in Duncan's kingdom are wearing a little thin...

Meet Gran'pa Greenbax.  Nothing seems to satisfy this greedy old frog's longing for a pool full of gold--until, one day, a mysterious smile appears in the sky.  Has his chance at happiness come at last?

Meet Janet.  Her nine-to-five life takes a turn for the romantic when she learns in an email from a mysterious Nigerian prince that she has been chosen to liberate his family's vast fortune.  All he needs is her banking information.


Gene Luen Yang hits my buttons every time.  I was skeptial when I started reading The Eternal Smile--I don't tend to like collections of short stories, and also there were a lot of frogs.  But then there was twist!  And I was hooked.

Turns out all three stories, while remarkably different in content and drawing style, all revolve around reality and fantasy.  What makes this so fantastic is that each story tells a different take on the battle.  Is living in a fantasy world always harmful?  Always good?  Can living in a fantasy world teach you something valuable about the real world?

As an avid reader, movie watcher, TV absorber, I love escaping into fantasy.  Curling up in someone else's life and living their drama gives me joy.  And the only thing that keeps me from seeing myself as a lazy bum is the belief that you can learn from stories.  Watching someone else live through the ups and downs of life (whether in a realistic show like Parenthood or a fantastical possibility like The Hunger Games) can broaden our worldviews, increase our empathy, help us avoid mistakes, and encourage us to be heroes.

I loved The Eternal Smile for delving into this issue.  Each story started out kind of weird, but by the time it reached its conclusion, I was completely sold.

Four out of five pools of gold.

Release Date: April 2009
Reading Level: Ages 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: Not currently part of Dunlap's collection.


  1. No all of the stories kind of combine like they do in American Born Chinese? I'm hoping that your appreciation for Gene Luen Yang will start to rub off on me...

  2. No, the three stories are completely separate in plot and characters. The theme carries through, with each story shedding a different light on the idea of escaping reality through fiction.

    If you don't like this one OR American Born Chinese, then it's probably safe to say Yang's style is not yours! Do you read many graphic novels? Maybe the format is part of the problem?