Title of Book: Stitches by David Small

GoodReads Rating: 4.03


This graphic novel is autobiographical. It chronologically tells the story of the author’s traumatic childhood from age 5 to 16. His father treated his sinus issues as an infant with radiation, which caused the author to develop cancer in his throat. His parents then had cancer removed yet never told their teenage son that he had cancer. He discovered the truth later by accident. In addition, the surgery severely damaged his vocal cords, making him almost completely mute. The book also chronicles his mother’s emotional abuse.

APA Reference of Book:

Small, D. (2009). Stitches. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.

My Impressions: 

Although heartbreaking, this graphic novel is both well-written and well-illustrated. It is a powerful and emotional story. It is a gripping tale. The author does an excellent job of using the illustrations to support the text. For example, all the illustrations are in black and white in order to emphasize the sadness of his childhood. In addition, the images representing his parents do not have eyes. I believe he did this in order to take away their humanity because he saw them as soulless. Thus, through the use of text and image, the author does a great job of developing the characterization of his parents.

Professional Review:

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.

Goldsmith, F. (2009). Stitches: A Memoir. School Library Journal, 55(9), 193.

Library Uses:

This graphic would be a great one to recommend to teachers who still think graphic novels are the same as comics or even “trash.” Reading this graphic novel will show them how profoundly emotional graphic novels can be. In addition, they will see that the characters and plot are fully developed, just like a traditional novel. Thus, hopefully after reading this graphic novel, reluctant teachers will begin using graphic novels as teaching tools in the classroom.


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