Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Stitches - Small - 2009

Title: Stitches: A Memoir (Graphic Novel)
Author: David Small
Year: 2009
Publisher: Norton
Course Theme for the Week: Biography & Non-Fiction (03-23-2011)
Date Read: 03-22-2011
Overall: * * * * * (5/5)

GoodReads Blurb: 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.

My Review: Stitches is beautifully illustrated. The images in the story convey so much emotion, and a large number of the pages don't even have any text. I was surprised that the pages without text were my favorite, but I think it is because I was able to linger longer on those pages, trying to figure out their meaning and what part of the story they were telling.

There are a number of images in this story that are actually fairly horrifying. The "little man in the jar," in particular. I think one of my favorite panels of images was the rain scene towards the end. There is rain in the city, on the car, the view out the window, on the lawnmower, and the inside of the kitchen looks dim and lonely. I think David Small does a wonderful job with faces, showing with just a few lines the exact expression you can picture someone making.

David's story is not a happy story, though the ending is full of hope. Seeing the illustrations that match his emotions when he discovered his father had given him cancer through x-rays was, at times, really hard to look at, because I didn't want to believe that could happen and then that they wouldn't even tell him the truth about his surgery.

To Purchase: Amazon, B&N

Also by this author: Imogene's Antlers (1985), Ruby Mae Has Something to Say (1992)

Books read in 2011: 28

Currently Reading: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl (2009)

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