Stitches by David Small
A Memoir

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Synopsis

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 Stitches, 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, Stitches 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).
 

About David Small

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David Small is the recipient of the Caldecott Medal, a 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 lives in Mendon, Michigan.
 
Published September 8, 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company. 336 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Comics & Graphic Novels, Education & Reference, Children's Books, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Stitches

Kirkus Reviews

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Emotionally raw, artistically compelling and psychologically devastating graphic memoir of childhood trauma.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Stitches: A Memoir

The Guardian

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Anyone yet to be convinced by the grand claims made for graphic novels by people like me should look at David Small's Stitches, a memoir which, when it came out in the US last year, was shortlisted for a National Book Award.

May 02 2010 | Read Full Review of Stitches: A Memoir

Examiner

Stitches, written by celebrated children's book illustrator David Small, is memoir of lonely young boy growing up during the 1950's in Detroit.

Jun 05 2009 | Read Full Review of Stitches: A Memoir

Book Reporter

David Small grew up in a household where, as he initially thinks, everyone has their own language.

Jan 23 2011 | Read Full Review of Stitches: A Memoir

The Globe and Mail

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People who survive a traumatic childhood often describe themselves as feeling "voiceless," but in Stitches, David Small's powerful memoir of childhood and adolescence, the loss of voice is not only metaphorical, but literal as well.

Dec 04 2009 | Read Full Review of Stitches: A Memoir

Common Sense Media

I would recommend this title for older mature teens as this book would lend itself well for discussion, a great book to read along with your older teen.

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Common Sense Media

The horror of a boy being subjected to repeated radiation treatments by his father, losing his vocal cord and ability to speak to cancer at the age of 14, and being lied to about all of it by his parents is nightmarish enough, but the scenes of David finding his mother in bed with another woman, ...

Sep 01 2009 | Read Full Review of Stitches: A Memoir

Bookmarks Magazine

In this graphic memoir, David Small, an illustrator and a children's books writer--he has won the Caldecott Medal and the E.

Sep 13 2009 | Read Full Review of Stitches: A Memoir

Kepler's

Unlike his Caldecott Honor winning work for children, the illustrations are stark and beautiful, delicate drawings in black, grey and blue ink and watercolor - a perfect backdrop for the story’s dark poetry: the industrial city, the lonely little boy in love with Alice in Wonderland, his unloving...

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California Literary Review

“Pocketa, pocketa, pocketa.” And you not only see little David holding his Teddy bear, but you know by Small’s brilliant drawings how it looks and feels to David to watch his brother, Ted, beat out his anger on a drum.

Sep 09 2009 | Read Full Review of Stitches: A Memoir

Current

The ever-narrowing, dissecting eye of the lens, continues to focus more introspectively as the figures in Small’s young life are introduced — an older brother absorbed with drumming, the father escaping to his basement punching bag, the mother whose “furious, silent withdrawals,” Small writes, “c...

Nov 25 2009 | Read Full Review of Stitches: A Memoir

Fighting for Life

... This year, I discovered I am a fan of Stephanie Japel. This realization kind of snuck up on me. First, I discovered I had printed out one of her ...

Apr 12 2012 | Read Full Review of Stitches: A Memoir

Reader Rating for Stitches
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