Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A graphic novel memoir

David Small, a Caldecott winning illustrator, recently published his memoir, Stitches. Instead of writing a prose book, he created a graphic novel to tell the story of his dysfunctional family, growing up in the Midwest in the late 1940-1950s.
His father was a radiologist and his mother was the dutiful housewife in a home filled with silence and passive aggression.

While the family life is the focus of the first part of the book, the second part is much more intriguing. When he was eleven, a growth was discovered on his neck. When he was fourteen he was operated on twice and half of his voice cords were removed rendering him virtually silent. He had cancer and he wasn't told. He didn't need to know they said when he confronts his parents later on.

I can totally understand how this memoir received all starred reviews in the library journals.Small's fantastically rendered world is both enthralling and creepy at the same time. His over active imagination comes to life in his drawings of his dreams and nightmares. His images turn from cartoony to realistic from panel to panel but completely works to tell his story. I have panels marked as some of my favorite individual panels of all time.

I'm not sure I'd be reading Small's story if he had written it as a prose book. The imagery is so strong that I don't think I could visualize the family life in as good of detail as he provided in the artwork. A fascinating read--not specifically for teens, but I think given the chance they will become just as horrified at the family as I was!