Stitches: A Memoir --
Stitches: A Memoir --
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Annotation: Graphic novel format portrays the complexities of the authors dysfunctional childhood.
Genre: Biographies
Catalog Number: #5261085
Format: Paperback
All Formats: Search
Special Formats: Graphic Novel Graphic Novel
Publisher: W. W. Norton
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition Date: 2010
Pages: 329 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-393-33896-7
ISBN 13: 978-0-393-33896-6
Dewey: 921
LCCN: 2009022526
Dimensions: 23 cm.
Language: English
Kirkus Reviews
Emotionally raw, artistically compelling and psychologically devastating graphic memoir of childhood trauma. An award-winning illustrator of children's books ( That Book Woman , 2008, etc.), Small narrates this memoir from various perspectives of his boyhood in the 1950s. He considered his radiologist father one of the "soldiers of science, and their weapon was the X-ray...They were miraculous wonder rays that would cure anything." Or so it seemed to a young boy who realized early on that his family was what now would be labeled "dysfunctional." His mother was cold, neurotic and acquisitive, with little love for either her spouse or their children. His older brother had little use for or contact with his younger sibling. His father was barely a presence in the household. The author was chronically ill, with treatment prescribed by his father, including X-rays. When Small was ten, he developed a growth on his neck that his parents were too preoccupied to have diagnosed, though friends of the family urged them to. It wasn't until after he turned 14 that he finally underwent surgery for what was initially considered a harmless cyst but turned out to be a cancerous tumor. A second surgery left him with only one vocal cord, all but voiceless as well as disfigured. Terse and unsentimental throughout, the narration becomes even sparer once the author loses his voice, with page after wordless page filled with stark imagery. Yet the intensity of the artistry reveals how he has been screaming inside, with nightmares that never fully abate when he is awake. Psychological therapy helps him come to terms with his condition, as does his precocious artistry. While the existence of this suggests somewhat of a happy ending, the reader will find forgiving and forgetting as hard as the author has. Graphic narrative at its most cathartic.
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up Small is best known for his picture-book illustration. Here he tells the decidedly grim but far from unique story of his own childhood. Many teens will identify with the rigors of growing up in a household of angry silences, selfish parents, feelings of personal weakness, and secret lives. Small shows himself to be an excellent storyteller here, developing the cast of characters as they appeared to him during this period of his life, while ending with the reminder that his parents and brother probably had very different takes on these same events. The title derives from throat surgery Small underwent at 14, which left him, for several years, literally voiceless. Both the visual and rhetorical metaphors throughout will have high appeal to teen sensibilities. The shaded artwork, composed mostly of ink washes, is both evocative and beautifully detailed. A fine example of the growing genre of graphic-novel memoirs. Francisca Goldsmith, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia
Starred Review for 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.)

Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Prolific, Caldecott Medal winning Small makes the leap to the graphic novel with a spare and unflinching memoir. Set on a black page, the haunting words I was six preface a scene of 1950s, soot-stained Detroit. Successive panels dolly slowly in on a boy sprawled out on the floor, drawing. "Mama had her little cough" breaks the reverie, and we're off into the nightmare of Small's upbringing, dominated by his mother's hateful silences and his physician father's pipe-smoking impassivity. At 14, the boy goes in for minor throat surgery (which was secretly for the cancer his father gave him by subjecting him, as a baby, to X-rays) and wakes up maimed and effectively muted with a severed vocal cord outcome made all the more devastating because it is so potently metaphoric of his family life. The suffocating silences of the household swell in grays and blacks with more nuance than lesser artists achieve with full rainbows of color, and Small's stark lines and intricacies of facial expression obliterate the divide between simplicity and sophistication. Like other "important" graphic works it seems destined to sit beside ink no less than Maus is 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.
Voice of Youth Advocates
Caldecott winning artist Small relates the harrowing story of his childhood from ages six to sixteen under the less-than-watchful eye of his coolly distant father and his emotionally abusive mother. At six, he endures physical abuse from his deranged maternal grandmother. At eleven, as a ôcystö appears on his neck, his parents ignore his medical problems, burn his books, and focus on their own needs. At fourteen, he believes he is entering the hospital for the easy removal of the neglected ôcyst,ö but leaves without one of his vocal folds or the ability to speak above a croak. After discovering he had cancer thanks to frequent x-rays by his radiologist father aimed at curing his sinus problems, DavidÆs attitude gets him sent to a boarding school. Later sessions with a psychiatrist only lead him to leave home before he is done with high school. SmallÆs first title for much older audiences is sequential art at its most effective and affecting. The ink wash panels with some full-bleed illustrations expertly convey first his innocence and confusion and then his horror and anger. Although the ending offers a redemptive glimmer of forgiveness, readers may find it as difficult to take that final step as it is to put this one down before the final pages turn. This one definitely takes its place on the shelf next to Alison BechdelÆs Fun Home (Houghton Mifflin, 2008).ùTimothy Capehart.
Word Count: 5,327
Reading Level: 3.2
Interest Level: 9+
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 3.2 / points: 1.0 / quiz: 137305 / grade: Upper Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:1.6 / points:1.0 / quiz:Q10925
Lexile: 260L

David Small, a best-selling and highly regarded children's book illustrator, comes forward with this unflinching graphic memoir. Remarkable and intensely dramatic, Stitches tells the story of a fourteen-year-old boy who awakes one day from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he has been transformed into a virtual mute--a vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot. From horror to hope, Small proceeds to graphically portray an almost unbelievable descent into adolescent hell and the difficult road to physical, emotional, and artistic recovery.A National Book Award finalist; winner of the ALA's Alex Award; a #1 New York Times graphic bestseller; Publishers Weekly and Washington Post Top Ten Books of the Year, Los Angeles Times Favorite Book, ALA Great Graphic Novels, Booklist Editors Choice Award, Huffington Post Great Books of 2009, Kirkus Reviews Best of 2009, Village Voice Best Graphic Novel, finalist for two 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards (Best Writer/Artist: Nonfiction; Best Reality-Based Work).

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