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Reviews for Stitches: A Memoir

by David Small

Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

"Stitches" refers to the clumsy sutures on 14-year-old David's neck after a cancer operation he wasn't supposed to know was cancer-an operation that renders him mute for a long time. More subtly, "stitches" could allude to how David's family members clumsily hold together their outwardly normal but unhappy lives: dad a stiff radiologist taking refuge in the liberal application of "healing" X-rays, mother a furious, cruel force, the cranky and feisty grandmother. Amidst enforced family silence about the parents' marriage and this unexpected handicap, a psychiatrist tells David a simple truth, freeing him to find his voice in art and, later, win awards for children's picture books. In fact, it's Small's art that lifts his memoir into the extraordinary. His seemingly simple black-and-white wash captures people, emotions, relationships, and plot subtleties with grace, precision, and a flawless sense of graphic narration. Verdict In no way the latest ho-hum episode of Dysfunctional Family Funnies, Stitches is compelling, disturbing, yet surprisingly easy to read and more than meets the high standard set by the widely praised Fun Home. With some sexual issues; highly recommended for older teens up.-M.C. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


School Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*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 an 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 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.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2009 Booklist


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

This acclaimed memoir by an award--winning children's book illustrator delves into Small's difficult childhood in which his father subjected him to repeated X-rays. He eventually developed cancer and lost his voice following surgery. Unable to speak, Small is further isolated and alienated from his unhappy family. A deeply emotional and haunting story, with gorgeous illustrations. This book was nominated for the National Book Award in the youth category, but the subject matter is rather dark; appropriate for older teens and up. (LJ 7/09) (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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