Jennifer Delpit, January 18, 2011 (view all comments by Jennifer Delpit)
I have been waiting for this fascinating and beautifully drawn book ever since I heard the incredibly talented David Small give a talk in 1996, when he described some of the unusual circumstances that he's had to overcome and mentioned that maybe one day he would finish a book about it. Extremely personal, shocking, heartbreaking, and ultimately generous to those who knowingly and unknowingly inflicted so much damage on him in his formative years, this is not only the best book I've read this year, but one of the best I've read in decades.
Larry Robinson, March 23, 2010 (view all comments by Larry Robinson)
No book is perfect, but this one comes pretty close. It is a touching and heartbreaking graphic memoir. Growing up David was subjected to numerous x-rays to try and cure his sinus problems. Those x-rays leave him cancer stricken and when he is operated on he isn't told that he has cancer. As a result of the operation he loses his voice. His family is rife with unhappiness and secrets. David's inability to speak makes him feel even more isolated. A sad but uplifting coming-of-age story.
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Stitches, written and illustrated by David Small, is his coming-of-age story told in graphic novel form. It's David Small's memoir of growing up in a family where his mother "had her little cough", sobbed quietly "out of sight", and slammed the kitchen cabinets to communicate. His father took his frustrations out on a punching bag, and his brother on the drums... and it's the story of the operation that would remove a vocal cord and leave David practically a mute...
There aren't a lot of words in Stitches. There really isn't a lot of need for lengthy prose- David Small's black & white ink drawings tell his story perfectly... I could almost feel his grandmother dragging me up the stairs to bed without supper.. I could feel the terror as he is put through shots, enema's and radiation to cure his boyhood illnesses. His drawings are so expressive and the bird's eye views he chooses to show certain scenes in, make the story a visually treat. They are not pretty pictures, but they are meaningful.
From "sock-skating" on a freshly waxed floor in the hospital his father "the radiologist" worked to finally having the operation to remove that cyst on his neck (which he'd find out later was really cancer caused by all the radiation his father gave him), Stitches takes you on a visual adventure of emotions. You'll get to know his often times cruel & dysfunctional family and feel the pains of growing up. I was surprised how haunted I was after I finished reading Stitches. I felt such pain for David growing up virtually unloved and isolated. This was a good book and one I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone.
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Martin Jetton, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by Martin Jetton)
As story telling is a difficult art the combination of words and drawings creates a tone that few do well without being either comic or harshly depressing. Mr Small's story is well drawn and told. I cherish my copy as it was my first Indiespensible and you always remember your first...
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teelgee, October 30, 2009 (view all comments by teelgee)
Wow, I love this genre! This is an outstanding book, the illustrations are brilliant in the moods and information they convey. The story is sad; David's childhood was full of trauma and family secrets. The ending, obviously, came out OK since he's an award winning illustrator-author. Highly recommended.
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W. W. Norton & Company -
by Jill S.,
Small, a Caldecott Medal winner and illustrator of such books as The Gardener and Imogene's Antlers, tells us no, shows us the quietly disturbing story of his youth growing up in an emotionally closed-off household while struggling with cancer. The characters are bizarre and shocking, yet still recognizable; the art is beautiful in the way the saddest movies are. Nominated for the 2009 National Book Award for Young People's Literature.
by Jill S.
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"In this profound and moving memoir, Small, an award-winning children's book illustrator, uses his drawings to depict the consciousness of a young boy. The story starts when the narrator is six years old and follows him into adulthood, with most of the story spent during his early adolescence. The youngest member of a silent and unhappy family, David is subjected to repeated x-rays to monitor sinus problems. When he develops cancer as a result of this procedure, he is operated on without being told what is wrong with him. The operation results in the loss of his voice, cutting him off even further from the world around him. Small's black and white pen and ink drawings are endlessly perceptive as they portray the layering of dream and imagination onto the real-life experiences of the young boy. Small's intuitive morphing of images, as with the terrible postsurgery scar on the main character's throat that becomes a dark staircase climbed by his mother, provide deep emotional echoes. Some understanding is gained as family secrets are unearthed, but for the most part David fends for himself in a family that is uncommunicative to a truly ghastly degree. Small tells his story with haunting subtlety and power. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
by Kirkus Reviews (starred review),
"Emotionally raw, artistically compelling and psychologically devastating graphic memoir of childhood trauma.... Graphic narrative at its most cathartic."
"Like other 'important' graphic works it seems destined to sit beside — think no less than Maus — this is a frequently disturbing, pitch-black funny, ultimately cathartic story whose full impact can only be delivered in the comics medium, which keeps it palatable as it reinforces its appalling aspects. If there's any fight left in the argument that comics aren't legitimate literature, this is just the thing to enlighten the naysayers."
by Robert Crumb,
"David Small evokes the mad scientific world of the 1950s beautifully, a time when everyone believed that science could fix everything.... Capturing body language and facial expressions subtly, Stitches becomes in Small's skillful hands a powerful story, an emotionally charged autobiography."
by Jules Feiffer,
"Like the boy in this autobiographical novel my first reading of Stitches left me speechless. And in awe. David Small presents us with a profound and moving gift of graphic literature that has the look of a movie and reads like a poem. Spare in words, painful in pictures, Small, in a style of dry menace, draws us a boy's life that you wouldn't want to live but you can't put down. From its first line four pages in, 'Mama had her little cough,' we know that we are in the hands of a master."
by Françoise Mouly, Art Editor, The New Yorker,
"David Small's Stitches is aptly named. With surgical precision, the author pierces into the past and, with great artistry, seals the wound inflicted on a small child by cruel and unloving parents. Stitches is as intensely dramatic as a woodcut novel of the silent movie era and as fluid as a contemporary Japanese manga. It breaks new ground for graphic novels."
by Stan Lee,
"Stitches is one of the most compelling books I've read in a long time — totally original in style, seemingly simplistic while psychologically complex and totally absorbing. There's no doubt that David Small, with his ground-breaking work, has elevated the art of the graphic novel and brought it to new creative heights."
Telling his story in a graphic-novel style, the prize-winning children's author depicts a childhood from hell in this searing yet redemptive memoir.
Finalist for the 2009 National Book Award and finalist for two 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards: the prize-winning children's author depicts a childhood from hell in this searing yet redemptive graphic memoir.
One day David Small awoke from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he had been transformed into a virtual mute. A vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot, the fourteen-year-old boy had not been told that he had cancer and was expected to die. In , Small, the award-winning children's illustrator and author, re-creates this terrifying event in a life story that might have been imagined by Kafka. As the images painfully tumble out, one by one, we gain a ringside seat at a gothic family drama where David--a highly anxious yet supremely talented child--all too often became the unwitting object of his parents' buried frustration and rage. Believing that they were trying to do their best, David's parents did just the reverse. Edward Small, a Detroit physician, who vented his own anger by hitting a punching bag, was convinced that he could cure his young son's respiratory problems with heavy doses of radiation, possibly causing David's cancer. Elizabeth, David's mother, tyrannically stingy and excessively scolding, ran the Small household under a cone of silence where emotions, especially her own, were hidden. Depicting this coming-of-age story with dazzling, kaleidoscopic images that turn nightmare into fairy tale, Small tells us of his journey from sickly child to cancer patient, to the troubled teen whose risky decision to run away from home at sixteen--with nothing more than the dream of becoming an artist--will resonate as the ultimate survival statement. A silent movie masquerading as a book, renders a broken world suddenly seamless and beautiful again. Finalist for the 2009 National Book Award (Young Adult); finalist for two 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards (Best Writer/Artist: Nonfiction; Best Reality-Based Work).
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