40 Forever: In Stitches


Stitches by David Small

National Book Award Finalist
Small, David. Stitches: A Memoir. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2009. Print.

“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.”
R. Crumb

“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

Judging by the bright, cheerful children’s book illustrations David Small is most famous for, you would never guess that his own childhood was so dark. All families are a bit dysfunctional, but David Small’s family was criminally insane. His grandmother, who used to discipline him with scalding hot water, was institutionalized after she locked her husband in the basement, set the house on fire, and celebrated by dancing around naked in the front yard. David Small’s father, a radiologist, used extremely high levels of radiation on his son in an attempt to come up with a cure for sinusitis. These experimental treatments were likely the cause of the cancerous growth that appeared on David’s neck. The growth grew and grew, and David’s mother put off taking him to a pediatrician for years because she didn’t want to throw away good money. Years later, when David’s growth finally became too big to ignore, he was operated on, and awoke to discover that one of his vocal chords had been removed along with the growth. He could no longer speak above a whisper.

Thankfully, David and his brother developed creative ways to escape the abuse. David turned to art and became an award-winning children’s author. His brother turned to music and became a professional classical percussionist.

This is the most compelling graphic novel/memoir I’ve read since Art Spiegelmans Breakdowns.

Spiegelman, Art. Breakdowns. London: Viking, 2008. Print.

Here are just a few of David Small’s wonderful books for children:

Small, David. Imogene’s Antlers. New York: Crown Publishers, 1985. Print.

Stewart, Sarah, and David Small. The Library. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1995. Print.

Caldecott Medalist
George, Judith S, and David Small. So You Want to Be President. New York: Philomel Books, 2000. Print.

Broach, Elise, and David Small. When Dinosaurs Came with Everything. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2007. Print.

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