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Stitches: A Memoir

Small, David (Author/Illustrator)
McClelland & Stewart 2010. 336 pages
First published: 2009
ISBN: 9780771081125 (paperback)
9780771081156 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Graphic Text
Book genre: Memoir

Text Elements:

characterization, dialogue, multimodal, panel arrangement, point of view, setting

Awards

National Book Award Finalist – 2009
Alex Award – 2010

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

David Small grew up in a house punctuated with silences, where his mother’s “little cough” and father’s use of a punching bag spoke louder than any words. A true story of survival and childhood trauma, David was a sickly child, often treated with x-ray therapy by his radiologist father in the basement of their 1950s Detroit home. Eventually this led to the development of a growth which, despite family secrecy, he later discovered to be cancer. A botched surgery left David with two severed vocal chords, literally taking away his voice. But through strength, resilience and artistic expression, he found his way out of the emotional repression of his childhood.

Monochromatic illustrations are filled with shadows and nightmarish dream sequences. Blurred scenes through the city streets, after David lost his voice, evoke his entrapment and loss of self, as he seemed to disappear: “I soon learned… when you have no voice, you don’t exist.” The author uses multiple frames, in what is often wordless storytelling, with filmlike intensity and power.

Close-ups, scale, perspective and surreal creatures from the dream world add an Alice in Wonderland quality of imaginative escape that contrasts with the bleakness of daily life. Lewis Carroll’s book is referred to as a childhood favourite; Small’s psychologist is depicted as the White Rabbit.

A powerful memoir of childhood lost and a voice truly found.

  •  

    A convention of the graphic memoir used in this text is to highlight key childhood memories to build the narrative. These and other scenes are rendered through use of panel arrangements, line, colour and panel transitions. Here, they convey emotions in light of often difficult situations.

  •  

    In small groups, discuss the way the memoir is introduced. Consider the opening pages, particularly the splash pages. What type of information do they offer? How do they impact the way the text is read?

  •  

    Annotate pivotal scenes and keep notes on the use of graphic memoir conventions for use as references for future text production.

  •  

    Infer as much as you can from the text and illustrations on pages 16-17 before reading the story. Make predictions about each family member, and compare these with a peer. Create a David’s Family word web as a class.

  •  

    Analyze pages 216-219. Imagine thought bubbles for what could have been said. Write these and share them in small groups.

  •  

    Why was this medium (graphic memoir) the best choice for the author to share his story? In your journal, explain why a novel, picture book, poem or other presentation would not have had the same impact.

  • To communicate appropriately
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Personal and Career Planning
  • Personal Development
  • Science and Technology
  • Visual Arts