Thursday, September 10, 2009

Stitches a Memoir Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Stitches: a Memoir
Author/Illustrator: David Small
Genre: memoir (graphic illustrated format book)
Publication: W.W. Norton & Company, September 2009

My Star Rating: 5 stars out of 5 = "I Love It"

Summary Statement: A Powerful and Emotional Graphically Illustrated Memoir

Parents, Teachers and Librarian’s may recognize David Small’s name because he has written and/or illustrated picture books for young children such as IMOGENE’S ANTLERS. This book however is a memoir, a story about his childhood and it is written for adult readers.

Illustrated in shades of gray and black, this memoir is told in comic strip style (graphic style). The colors are fitting and help set the tone of this sad, dark and sometimes scary story. A fact of life is that adults are complex people and not every adult’s life is wonderful even in the United States of America. Even in the 1950s, a time that is looked back on as an ideal time for children and families, the time that is the setting of this story, things were not perfect or ideal for every family and child apparently. Sadly, sometimes children are born of parents who have problems and issues, who are flawed and make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes hurt their own children.

I was moved to tears by this memoir. As a child Small was obviously had good powers of observation and an emotional sensitivity to be so aware of, and affected by the problems in his family, by things said and done or not done by his mother, father, and grandmother. Disconnection from an always-working father and the awareness of the family’s tight finances are two examples of the real life adult issues that clearly affected Small as a child. Of course he was greatly affected by the secrecy about his throat cancer and surgery which left him mute (something openly discussed in the marketing materials).

I’ll not divulge other details in the story lest it spoil the book but if I could I’d give more concrete examples of the deep issues this story contains. This story provides food for thought and some issues within it could make for spirited discussion, such as with a book discussion group. Although I read through it in under and hour I know I could discuss the topics with others for a good two hours or more!

Another component in the story that may be of interest to some people is that the story tells of Small starting to draw at age two and using drawing for pleasure and as an escape even when it seemed to not be praised by the adults in his life. As the story wraps up we hear of how drawing and illustration has become his career.

After reading the story all I could think of was bad things happen to good people and unfortunately sometimes those people are young kids. It is uplifting to know that some kids who have grown up in adverse conditions or bad life experiences and those with imperfect families can get through it and get on with their life in spite of the problems they faced. Despite knowing that fact, my heart ached for the boy David Small.

This is powerful storytelling. The illustrations especially the body language of the adults and the dark tones clearly convey emotion. The constant viewing of gray and black tones and the continuing negative body language that permeates frame after frame almost overlay the entire story like a heavy blanket, giving an additional layer of pressure and darkness to the story above and beyond the detailed story that is being told at each segment of the book. Replicating that type of steady tone in a book told in traditional word format stories is not as easy, in other words, the way that Small illustrated his story in both images and colors is masterful. Small really pulled off a feat with his memoir. Bravo David Small!

I want to underscore one more time for parent readers of my book reviews and because I often review children’s books--- STITCHES A MEMOIR is a book for adults or older teenagers. Just because this book is told in graphic format and features the life of a boy does not mean it is recommended reading for children.

Disclosure: I received an advance reading copy of this book from the Amazon Vine product review program for the purpose of reading and writing a review of it. The ARC cannot be resold and its retail value to me is $0. I was not paid money to write this review.

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Gary said...

Great review; I saw it first at Amazon. You should enjoy the new video vignettes from David Small's "Stitches: A Memoir". And, Stitches also welcomes Facebook Fans...

Gary Stock [Stitches news by Nexcerpt]

Michael Kindness said...

Great review!

Thanks for finding, and commenting on, Books on the Nightstand.

I've added your blog to my blog reader and look forward to reading more!


Becky said...

Wow looks like an interesting read. Memoirs have become my thing lately, in fact just finished reading a great memoir titled, "Replacement Child: A Memoir," by Judy L. Mandel. It is a personal journey to understand the aftermath of a family tragedy of losing a child. Heart wrenching story, yet filled with hope and even some humor. Like with "Stitches", there is a deep meaning- one that has stuck with me.... that love is a powerful healer and a vehicle for forgiveness. Am needing a new book to read and will check out "Stitches." Thanks for suggesting it.