ISBN-10:
0393338967
ISBN-13:
9780393338966
Pub. Date:
09/13/2010
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Stitches

Stitches

by David Small

Paperback

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393338966
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 09/13/2010
Pages: 329
Sales rank: 75,709
Product dimensions: 6.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

David Small author of the #1 New York Times best-selling Stitches, is the recipient of the Caldecott Medal, the Christopher Medal, and the E. B. White Award.
He and his wife, the writer Sarah Stewart, live in Michigan.

Reading Group Guide

1. Stitches is the story of one man's attempt to understand and reclaim his past. How is the act of remembering - and memory itself - handled in the book? Discuss the effectiveness of the transitions between the book's "chapters."

2. Early on, David Small describes how each member of his family had his or her own "language." What does each family member's language reveal about them? How does David's "language" change over the course of the book? 

3. Discuss the theme of silence. Which silences are forced, and which are self-imposed? Did you feel there were moments when Small's perceptive depictions of body language, facial expression, and suppressed emotion spoke more powerfully than words could have? What are the consequences when characters do speak up to tell the truth?

4. During the editing process, Small tried to "get rid of as many words as possible. That's what the book is about - not being able to speak feelings, and being kept silent." But he was also interested in the role language plays in a "largely wordless book." What are the repercussions of young David's use of the words ain't (p88) and crazy (p101)? Are there other highly charged words in the book? What significance do such sounds as Whap! and Kkrraackk! have in the story?

5. How would you describe the role that art and the imagination play in the book? Which images spoke most powerfully to you about the importance of art in David's life? How does young David's retreat into his imagination compare with how his parents deal with reality?

6. Discuss the significance of the fairy tales, daydreams, and nightmares that appear in the book.

7. Inconceiving of the approach he would use to tell his story, Small was inspired by favourite filmmakers who could "tell a story visually, directly, simply, and, preferably, in black and white. Colour, they knew, often confused the issue." How might your experience of reading Stitches have been different if the book was in colour? Are there particular images that could only have been drawn in black and white? Do you agree or disagree with Small's comment that colour can "confuse the issue"? Which images have stayed with you most?

8. One of Small's visual influences for Stitches were the early films of Michelangelo Antonioni, who is known for the way he uses architectural and landscape shots to reflect his characters' inner lives. What do Small's depictions of architecture and landscape reveal about his characters?

9. Stitches has been widely praised for its "cinematic" style. Consider the extended wordless sequence where young David is roaming the halls of the hospital. How does Small control the tension within and pacing of this section? How do you think a familiarity with the visual language of movies affected your reading of the book? Did Stitches call to mind other movies you have seen?

10. Small uses a variety of drawing styles throughout the book, ranging from the realistic to the cartoonish (pp68-69), to the abstract and expressive (pp180-181). How are these and other shifts in style revealing of young David's state of mind?

11. As a child, David falls in love with Alice in Wonderland - in particular, Alice's ability to travel to a magical land (p56). In the original story, it is while Alice is chasing after the White Rabbit that she unwittingly falls down a rabbit hole into Wonderland, an upside-down world where nonsense and confusion prevail. Consider how images of things falling and things inverted appear again and again in Stitches. What are some of the other ways in which Small alludes to Alice in Wonderland? Why do you think Small chose to portray his psychiatrist as the White Rabbit?

12. Consider the "mirrored" images that appear on the following pages: 192-193, 215-216, 294-295. How did Small's decision to pair these images together add to your appreciation of one or both of the images? Can you point to other examples of repeating images and/or scenes?

13. On p.174, there is a split image showing David and his mother as opposite sides of the same face. Discuss the significance of this image, especially in light of the dream that David has toward the end of the book.

14. The publication of Stitches has already had a profound impact on David Small's own life. After Small was encouraged to share an early copy of the book with his brother, from whom he had been estranged for many decades, the two men started talking again, brought together by a shared recognition of the troubled childhood they had both lived through. Discuss the reconciliations of a sort that occur within the book.

15. "Nobody heard her tears; the heart is a fountain of weeping water which makes no noise in the world." Why do you think Small is reminded of this line when he thinks of his mother at the end of the book?

16. What is the significance of the book's title? An earlier title for the book was Burning Down the House. What might be some of the reasons why this title was not used?

17. One early reader had this to say about the book: "If you have ever questioned whether graphic novels can be as poignant and powerful as traditional novels or memoirs, Stitches proves that they can. In fact, I don't think David Small's memoir could be told as powerfully in any other format." Do you agree or disagree? Why do you think the book has been called a "gateway book" to the graphic narrative form? Has Stitches changed the way you think of graphic narratives? Will you be recommending Stitches to friends?

Foreword

1. Stitches is the story of one man's attempt to understand and reclaim his past. How is the act of remembering - and memory itself - handled in the book? Discuss the effectiveness of the transitions between the book's "chapters."

2. Early on, David Small describes how each member of his family had his or her own "language." What does each family member's language reveal about them? How does David's "language" change over the course of the book? 

3. Discuss the theme of silence. Which silences are forced, and which are self-imposed? Did you feel there were moments when Small's perceptive depictions of body language, facial expression, and suppressed emotion spoke more powerfully than words could have? What are the consequences when characters do speak up to tell the truth?

4. During the editing process, Small tried to "get rid of as many words as possible. That's what the book is about - not being able to speak feelings, and being kept silent." But he was also interested in the role language plays in a "largely wordless book." What are the repercussions of young David's use of the words ain't (p88) and crazy (p101)? Are there other highly charged words in the book? What significance do such sounds as Whap! and Kkrraackk! have in the story?

5. How would you describe the role that art and the imagination play in the book? Which images spoke most powerfully to you about the importance of art in David's life? How does young David's retreat into his imagination compare with how his parents deal with reality?

6. Discuss the significance of the fairy tales, daydreams, and nightmares that appear in thebook.

7. In conceiving of the approach he would use to tell his story, Small was inspired by favourite filmmakers who could "tell a story visually, directly, simply, and, preferably, in black and white. Colour, they knew, often confused the issue." How might your experience of reading Stitches have been different if the book was in colour? Are there particular images that could only have been drawn in black and white? Do you agree or disagree with Small's comment that colour can "confuse the issue"? Which images have stayed with you most?

8. One of Small's visual influences for Stitches were the early films of Michelangelo Antonioni, who is known for the way he uses architectural and landscape shots to reflect his characters' inner lives. What do Small's depictions of architecture and landscape reveal about his characters?

9. Stitches has been widely praised for its "cinematic" style. Consider the extended wordless sequence where young David is roaming the halls of the hospital. How does Small control the tension within and pacing of this section? How do you think a familiarity with the visual language of movies affected your reading of the book? Did Stitches call to mind other movies you have seen?

10. Small uses a variety of drawing styles throughout the book, ranging from the realistic to the cartoonish (pp68-69), to the abstract and expressive (pp180-181). How are these and other shifts in style revealing of young David's state of mind?

11. As a child, David falls in love with Alice in Wonderland - in particular, Alice's ability to travel to a magical land (p56). In the original story, it is while Alice is chasing after the White Rabbit that she unwittingly falls down a rabbit hole into Wonderland, an upside-down world where nonsense and confusion prevail. Consider how images of things falling and things inverted appear again and again in Stitches. What are some of the other ways in which Small alludes to Alice in Wonderland? Why do you think Small chose to portray his psychiatrist as the White Rabbit?

12. Consider the "mirrored" images that appear on the following pages: 192-193, 215-216, 294-295. How did Small's decision to pair these images together add to your appreciation of one or both of the images? Can you point to other examples of repeating images and/or scenes?

13. On p.174, there is a split image showing David and his mother as opposite sides of the same face. Discuss the significance of this image, especially in light of the dream that David has toward the end of the book.

14. The publication of Stitches has already had a profound impact on David Small's own life. After Small was encouraged to share an early copy of the book with his brother, from whom he had been estranged for many decades, the two men started talking again, brought together by a shared recognition of the troubled childhood they had both lived through. Discuss the reconciliations of a sort that occur within the book.

15. "Nobody heard her tears; the heart is a fountain of weeping water which makes no noise in the world." Why do you think Small is reminded of this line when he thinks of his mother at the end of the book?

16. What is the significance of the book's title? An earlier title for the book was Burning Down the House. What might be some of the reasons why this title was not used?

17. One early reader had this to say about the book: "If you have ever questioned whether graphic novels can be as poignant and powerful as traditional novels or memoirs, Stitches proves that they can. In fact, I don't think David Small's memoir could be told as powerfully in any other format." Do you agree or disagree? Why do you think the book has been called a "gateway book" to the graphic narrative form? Has Stitches changed the way you think of graphic narratives? Will you be recommending Stitches to friends?

Customer Reviews

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Stitches 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 71 reviews.
voyager8 More than 1 year ago
I read this book in under 2 hours and three days later I can't stop thinking about it. What this poor boy went through is more teriifying in it's unfairness alone than any horror comic. I felt shocked and angry that such selfish beings ever exisited and became parents. Mr Small is an amazing writer and artist. I have deep respect for his survival and creativity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not put it down. It had the hair the back of neck standing up. I wish I could my writing could be as clear and breath taking. If it is ever made into a movie. I know the rating will be "R" but it will worth it. The main character in the book made me want grab him and take him to my house.
BettyMc on LibraryThing 19 days ago
Powerful book about a vicious circle in a family --- passing down from generation to generation. The graphics-drawings add so much to the story. I sobbed at the end. A keeper.
ewyatt on LibraryThing 19 days ago
In this dark graphic novel, David Small tells his story of growing up in a house where a family is barely functioning. He has a growth on his throat which much be surgically removed, although no one tells him he has cancer. Art and a therapist are keys to his recovery.
Girl_Detective on LibraryThing 19 days ago
a comic-book memoir by David Small, reviewed as one of the best graphic novels of last year. David is six when the story begins. There's a lovely, long series of tracking illustrations through Detroit into David's living room where he's drawing, then we meet his family. Each expresses emotion without words. Mother bangs pots. Father hits a punching bag. Brother bangs a drum set. And David? He gets sick.At six, David has sinus problems. His radiologist father treats him with X-rays, not uncommon at the time. At eleven, David has a lump on his neck. Surgery is recommended, but somehow the family puts it off for three and a half years. The aftermath of the surgery, and the series of revelations that follow are terribly sad and often horrifying. Small's minimalist art and black and white watercolor palette help make this tale not only readable, but engaging. There are many powerful wordless sequences from a child's perspective, some true, others imaginary. Like Alison Bechdel's "Fun Home", with which this book shares more than a few similarities, the existence of the book and the ability of the artist to write it point to hope and redemption in the face of a harrowing family life.
bell7 on LibraryThing 19 days ago
This graphic novel memoir of David Small's childhood is impossible for me to sum up without telling the entire story, so I'm not going to try. His story is heart-rending, reminding me a lot of A Child Called "It", though David's parents don't seem as much overtly abusive as distant and cold. The black and white illustrations are well-done, conveying a lot by the progression of panels in almost cinematic movement, from setting up a scene to packing an emotional punch. Words are few; pictures tell most of the story, and what a powerful story it is.
andreablythe on LibraryThing 19 days ago
Stiches tells a haunting story of abuse, the most horrifying of which is his parents refusal to tell him that he had throat cancer, even after he woke up from surgery at fourteen incapable of speaking. The art in this graphic novel is some of the most beautiful I've seen. The use of gray-toned water color to shade and add depth to the vivid drawings gives the characters and world a kind of ghostly, insubstantial quality, which seems to me to be the nature of memory. This is a book I'm definitely going to have to own, if just for the opportunity to gaze at the art again and again.
brenzi on LibraryThing 19 days ago
There was a time when I was a book snob and wouldn¿t consider reading a lowly graphic novel (formerly known as a comic book but packaged and peddled now as a hardbound book). That was yesterday. Today I read Stitches by David Small and now I¿m not so haughty. This little gem was just a wonderful book.Stitches, Small¿s coming of age memoir, tells the story of his life from the time he was six years old until adulthood. It¿s a fascinating story, enhanced by Small¿s charming artwork. His mother is a cruel woman who takes out her frustrations with life on David. His father, a radiologist, is a totally absent figure in David¿s life. No luck with his grandmother either. Only David¿s step grandfather showed him any love or care, taking him to see the trains come in and showing him proudly around town to his friends. Small does a masterful job depicting a life filled with cruelty and it just makes one wonder how parents like this are allowed to have children. He faces a major life threatening illness and his parents wait three years to seek medical treatment. It¿s criminal what these parents get away with and poor David somehow survives it all and goes on to be a Caldecott winning illustrator.I can¿t emphasize how important the illustrations are to the book. It¿s these drawings that enable you to sympathize with the story. They¿re so well done and so clearly illustrate the feelings, mood and emotions that are being brought forth in the story. A very fast read and one well worth the effort. Highly recommended.
farfromkansas on LibraryThing 22 days ago
The graphic novel Stitches, written and illustrated by David Small, is a testament to the power of silence. Throughout the book, David encounters the icy chill of his family¿s silence, and when he is robbed of his own physical voice, he essentially becomes invisible to the people around him. While David¿s experiences are not individually unique, they have the potential to cripple anyone when combined in such magnitude; because of this, Small¿s story is a powerful demonstration of the human spirit¿s ability to cope with suffering and still survive.Over the course of the story, Small shows the reader a variety of horrors that the author faced in his own life: childhood cancer, emotionally-distant parents, mentally-unstable grandparents, and crippling depression. All of these experiences result in painful scars ¿ both physical and emotional ¿ that David must overcome over the course of his life. Fortunately for the reader, Small has not let his personal pain overshadow his talent with pictures and words, and Stitches is the result of his survival.The target audience of Stitches seems to be adults ¿ the grown-up children who remember the painful scars of their youth, but who have enough emotional distance to look back on the past without feeling overwhelmed by the pain. However, the book can just as easily speak to disenfranchised teenagers, many of whom are still in the throngs of painful adolescence experiences. Because Small¿s visual style utilizes a cartoonish format, it can seem playful and childlike at times; however, Stitches is definitely more Frank Miller than Jack Kirby in its presentation. Small¿s artwork is stark and unsettling, with no color added to the illustrations: in this regard, the art recalls old black and white photographs, which capture a moment in time without fleshing out the full set of emotions involved.As far as memoirs go, Stitches is powerful and poignant, encapsulating the challenges of adolescence without falling prey to nostalgia. The book also reminds us of the power that families have over children, as David¿s parents essentially paralyze his voice (literally and figuratively) until he is able to reclaim it as his own many years later. Although some readers may unwisely dismiss Stitches because it follows the graphic novel format, it is a vivid depiction of familial dysfunction that deserves to be read by adults and adolescents alike.
artistlibrarian on LibraryThing 22 days ago
Recently, I read the graphic novel Stitches by David Small (Norton, 2009). It had been brought up on the YASLA Book listserv when it was nominated for a National Book Award in the Young Adult category rather than Adult Non-fiction. It was only published in September and I was able to get it through Interlibrary Loan.I've never like graphic novels, or comics - whatever you want to call them. I prefer words to images (which makes no sense since I have a MFA in visual arts). But I loved Stitches from beginning to end (both of which happened in one night; that must be the plus side to graphic novels - pictures read more quickly than words). This is David Small's memoir of his near unbelievable childhood. As a boy he had cancer, though his parents, if we can call them that, seemed to feel he really didn't need to know.If you are an Augusten Burroughs fan, this is the perfect GN for you. If you are a GN fan, you need to own this book. His illustrations are grey washes and simple lines that make you wince with empathy and frustration. I can't imagine his memory in any more than the few words he scrawls within the pages.I'm surprised at the mild outrage over its nomination as a Young Adult publication rather than Non-Fiction or Biography. Though the story is painful and told in the tough language of a kid who's sick and pissed, it's no different than the other reading I've been doing this week - America by E.R. Frank and Monster by Walter Dean Myers. A quick search of WorldCat shows most libraries shelving it in the adult areas but, though the format of graphic novel shouldn't deem a work young adult in and of itself, I certainly see how it will appeal to teens. It was nominated for the Young Adult category by the publisher, Norton. They are calling it a cross-over piece. Marketing lingo and tweaking the Award? Possibly, but the book is too good to really care.
Carmenere on LibraryThing 22 days ago
David¿s parents really left a mark on him. Well, actually a few. Some are visible others are not. The most obvious mark is the scar alongside his neck where a growth once thrived, a growth that may have been the result of an overzealous radiologist father. The other scar which is not visible is the one inflicted by his growth of a mother. No love, no hugs, no time were given to young David by his mother. She, who was locked inside a Hell of her own, made another for her son. This autobiographical graphic novel must have been very painful for Small to relive as it was very painful for me to read. His drawings depict his childhood pain, loneliness and his agitation as well as his mother¿s hatred and his father¿s inattentiveness so perfectly that it becomes very emotional for the reader to be a spectator to this abuse. Thankfully, his love of art carried him through these difficult times even though his parents did not.Would I recommend it¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿Yes, but expect to be moved by this account.
Djupstrom on LibraryThing 22 days ago
I am glad Graphic Novels have come into the main-stream. This one is a memoir/graphic novel. It was amazing. It was touching and real. I felt invested in the characters. I have read traditional memoirs that didn't grab my interest and tug at my heart strings as much as this "cartoon" did. Read it!
cmcvittie on LibraryThing 22 days ago
An excellent, but disturbing memoir. David's mother is an angry, distant woman and his father a mostly absent radiologist. Because of David's asthma and allergies, he received frequent X-rays completed by his father. As a boy he develops a growth on his neck, which is removed, along with all but one vocal cord. His parents never explained to him that it was cancer. David continues to struggle with the complete lack of love from his parents until he receives counselling from a kind and understanding therapist and begins to heal the pain and scars of his childhood. Small's artwork chillingly shows the emptiness of his mother's heart as her glasses often appear reflective.
Pennydart on LibraryThing 22 days ago
I'd never read a graphic novel before, and would likely not have read this one if it hadn't been selected by my book club. It completely shattered my (incorrect) belief that graphic novels (or graphic books more generally: this one is a memoir) are aimed at children. As far from the comic books of my youth as I can imagine, "Stitches" is the horrific, true tale of David Small's loveless upbringing by an angry, cold mother, and a powerless, seemingly absent father. At the age of 14, Small undergoes throat surgery for cancer, which he is not told he has, and he is left with only one vocal void, and thus without a voice. He survives, and eventually is taken on by a therapist who helps him recover from his physical and psychological trauma, and whom Small, a long time fan of Alice in Wonderland, depicts as the White Rabbit.Small was always an artist, drawing even as a very young child, as a way of coping with his awful environment, and he grew up to become an illustrator of children's books--and of this graphic memoir. The terribly painful emotions he recounts here might just not have been bearable, either for him or for the reader, if they'd been expressed in words instead of pictures.
readfeed on LibraryThing 22 days ago
Children's book illustrator David Small's haunting graphic novel examines his coming of age in 50s Detroit, describing how he overcomes his threatening family and serious medical conditions. The gestural black and white illustrations suit the scary memories of a boy who must rely on himself too early.
ShaneCasebeer on LibraryThing 22 days ago
Q: 5P: 3Annotation: With surgical precision, David Small portrays his childhood and teen years that are marked by troubled and distant parents who hide the truth from him about the two operations that have left him almost speechless, and with an enormous scar on his neck.
Jennanana on LibraryThing 22 days ago
Graphic novel and autobiography about the life of David Small, the author. Growing up with two stern parents, David found an outlet in his drawing. He finds a small bump on his neck and his father, who is a doctor, ignores it for a while. After some years he finally goes to the hospital to have it removed, finding out that it was cancer. When he was very young his father put him under an X-Ray machine and admits to having caused the cancer. Awesome illustrations and a very poignant story with hilarity thrown in.
Ellen_Norton on LibraryThing 22 days ago
This amazingly drawn graphic novel tells the story of an unbelievably complicated family situation. David's family is very introverted, and filled with problems, lies, and deciet. To make matters wose, they never talk about anything. David undergoes an operation as a teen, and loses one of his vocal chords to what he doesn't find out for many years is cancer caused by his father's radiation testing on him as a child. This is just one of the many extremely complicated, heart wrenching problems that plagues this royally messed up family. A great read for older high school ages, as well as adults. Beautiful illustrations make this book really come to life.
mjspear on LibraryThing 22 days ago
Stitches is a wonderfully-wrought graphic novel, telling David Small's autobiographical tale of growing up weird in Detroit. David is sickly as a boy (he calls it his 'thing') and his medical doctor father gives him massive doses of radiation as a curative. Beneath the suburban calm, his mother is perpetally angry, his grandmother is certifiably crazy, and his Dad and brother are locked into frustrations of their own. Ultimately, all of the xrays give David cancer and he faces the battle of his life. Despite all of this drama, the book manages to have a breezy, I-will-survive tone. Small is a well-known illustrator and the book's drawings are superb. If you've never read a graphic novel before, try this one!
HotWolfie on LibraryThing 22 days ago
This was an interesting, but severely depressing read about one man's complicated relationship with his family. The artwork was excellent. The writing was also intense and memorabel. As a warning, this is an extremely dark and harsh look at one man's experience with abuse. I don't think I'd read it again because I found it so disturbingly sad, but I'm glad that I read it once.If you liked Art Spiegelman's biography series Maus, you would probably like Stitches: A Memoir.
rores28 on LibraryThing 22 days ago
A graphic novel that refreshingly relies on its graphics (b&w watercolor) to cast the macabre childhood of David Small. Accented with only skeletal prose this work leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth, but in a good way.
EBT1002 on LibraryThing 22 days ago
I loved, loved, loved this wonderful graphic memoir. David Small uses physically and emotionally detailed drawings to tell the story of his childhood in a family of silent, angry adults, and his coming of age and claiming of self. Beautiful. Highly recommended.
miyurose on LibraryThing 22 days ago
I¿ve been meaning to read this for a long time, and finally got around to it a few weeks ago. We were traveling, and it was a good book to read start-to-finish in the car ¿ only took me about an hour. David Small¿s story is rather sad. The second child of a pair of emotionally and physically distant parents, he spent much of his childhood entertaining himself and learning how to best maneuver with the least upset to anyone. When he develops a tumor on his neck, it becomes just one more thing to deal with silently. His parents seem barely concerned, leaving it for several years before finally having it removed when David is 14. Even then they don¿t tell him what is going on, just that he¿s having surgery. He wakes up with a giant scar and no voice with absolutely no preparation. It¿s hard to tell which is worse, the physical scar or the mental one.The pain that David remembers is evident in his artwork. Black and white and stark, he¿s able to not only portray reality as he remembers it, through the eyes of a child, but his fantasies as well. The story may come off as a bit one-sided, but it is a memoir, after all, and is told through the point of view of himself as a child. There is an afterword of sorts, where he addresses his mother¿s behavior with the wisdom of age and experience. He may even have managed to forgive his parents. I¿m not sure I could.Some may say they did the best they knew how, but sometimes your best just isn¿t good enough.
tiamatq on LibraryThing 22 days ago
David Small draws you into his childhood, evoking the 50s and 60s and a household that represses and internalizes all feelings. "Stitches" is the story of his childhood, of his mother, and of the growth on his neck that turns out to be cancer, resulting in the removal of one of his vocal chords and a horrific scar. This book is brief - maybe an hour to read, but it sinks into you. The art swirls and moves as if it were a film, and the awkwardness, tension, and sadness of Small's family is conveyed through the black, white, and gray-washed illustrations. Certain themes crop up through the book - Small's fascination with Alice in Wonderland, a haunting discover in the pathology department of the hospital where his father worked, his escape into art throughout his childhood and into his teens, and the words that we say even when we are silent. Small closes the book with further details of his family's history, particularly his mother's medical background. This is a powerful story, made more so by the format used to tell it. For those looking for a complicated book on family relationships and finding your own voice, I would highly recommend this book.
JackieBlem on LibraryThing 22 days ago
I finally sat down and read this book this weekend. The tales are true--it reads really quickly. Unless, like me, you get lost in the haunting illustrations that kept me mesmerized for minutes on end. His artistry is masterful and nearly overwhelmingly powerful. His story is heart breakingly bleak, his ability to keep himself together and find a life of happiness and love through art is awe inducing and as inspirational a tale as I have ever heard. Please, give yourself the gift of reading this book.