Synopses & Reviews
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).
"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.)
"Emotionally raw, artistically compelling and psychologically devastating graphic memoir of childhood trauma.... Graphic narrative at its most cathartic." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"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." Booklist
"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." Robert Crumb
"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." Jules Feiffer
"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." Françoise Mouly, Art Editor, The New Yorker
"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." Stan Lee
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 throat cancer and was expected to die.
Small, a prize-winning children's author, re-creates a life story that might have been imagined by Kafka. Readers will be riveted by his journey from speechless victim, subjected to X-rays by his radiologist father and scolded by his withholding and tormented mother, to his decision to flee his home at sixteen with nothing more than dreams of becoming an artist. Recalling Running with Scissors with its ability to evoke the trauma of a childhood lost, Stitches will transform adolescent and adult readers alike with its deeply liberating vision.
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.
Momma had her little cough (from David Small's Stitches) from Stitches: A Memoir... on Vimeo.
About the Author
David Small is the recipient of the Caldecott Medal, the Christopher Medal, and the E. B. White Award for his picture books, which include Imogene's Antlers, The Gardener, and So, You Want to Be President? He and his wife, the writer Sarah Stewart, live in Michigan.