Sunday, July 12, 2009


On Saturday, I worked the ALA Moonstone booth, and it was quite a success. I managed to sneak over to the Norton booth to pick up a copy of David Small's much discussed Stitches: A Memoir graphic novel. It's an "advance reading copy, not for sale" so I get to feel somewhat privileged to be able to read this before it hits store shelves September 8th. The book is not coming out until September and not only did Norton give away stacks of these at the ALA show here in Chicago in July, they also gave away stacks of the book at the BEA in New York last month. Norton obviously is aware of what a great book they have on their hands to be pushing the shit out of it months ahead of release. All of the preliminary reviews I've read so far are overwhelmingly positive, and now I understand why. This is it, the next great Maus, Persepolis or Fun Home. David Small may not be a well known name to the comics industry but he is HUGE in the book industry, being a very famous children's book illustrator with many children's best sellers on his resume.

From the back of the book: "The Prize-winning children's author depicts a childhood from hell in this redemptive memoir."
"One day David Small awoke from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he had been transformed into a virtual mute. A vocal chord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot, the fourteen-year-old boy had not been told that he had throat cancer and was expected to die. David Small, in Stiches, re-creates a life story that might have been imagined by Kafka. Readers will be riveted by his journey from speechless victim, subjected to x-rays by his radiologist father and scolded by his withholding mother, to his decision to flee his home with nothing more than his dreams of becoming an artist."

Upon reading this graphic novel, you can't help but be moved by this story that transfixes the reader from the first panel forward. 329 pages of black and white moody art that propels the reader along with alarming speed. You can not put this book down. I challenge you to read it in anything less than a single sitting. This is the story of a small boy, surrounded by loveless parents, ignorant of his cancer until too late, who has to overcome overwhelming odds to make it out of his home and prison-like family life alive and sane. This book obviously took years to produce, and I imagine every day David worked on it was a study in self-reflection and pain. This portrait of his early life that David has recreated in Stitches is therapeutic story-telling at its best. Like Maus, Persepolis, and Fun Home that came before it, there is no doubt that Stitches will win every award from here to the moon available to it, in both the book industry and the comic book industry. This is next year's big Eisner winner, no doubt about it. And like the aforementioned M, and FH, this story is ultimately about the writer coming to terms with his dysfunctional relationship with his mother and father, but especially his mother. After reading this story, the reader will find a much greater appreciation for their own childhood, because very few of us can identify with the home-life and childhood depicted here. Stitches is a vehicle for David Small to finally move forward in his life, past the absurdity of his childhood, and all the horrors associated with it.

Read this book and you will witness first hand the potential for the comic book medium. Stitches is what every pretentious work of graphic fiction strives for that very few deliver.
Creepy, haunting, thought-provoking and scary as hell, Stitches will grab the reader by his or her soul and will never truly let go.

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