David Small’s Stitches: A Memoir (McLelland & Stewart/W.W. Norton) is fantastic. As good or better than the most celebrated graphic novels that it will inevitably be compared to. Stitches is all the more compelling because it is not a novel at all. Rather, it is a graphic telling of author and illustrator David Small’s early life.
This is David through the Looking Glass as seen by David Lynch or perhaps Tim Burton, a dark and often disturbing graphic glimpse at a childhood that many of us might have thought was best left alone. Small takes us through the dark corridors of his childhood in Detroit in the 1950s, the son of a radiologist father whose constant x-raying ultimately gives the boy cancer. And things go downhill from there.
Stitches is a huge distance from the work Small is best known for. He has illustrated over 40 children’s books and won the most prestigious awards available to him in the process. It’s not hard to see why: Small is hugely talented and his understanding of visual storytelling is complete. Stitches is undoubtedly one of the best books of 2009.