Posts Tagged ‘Caldecott Medal’

Stitches

Published March 2, 2010 by Molly

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Graphic novel and memoir are two genres that, if fused right, can harmonize as beautifully as Brian and Carl Wilson. Marjane Satrapi, Harvey Pekar, Joe Sacco, Phoebe Gloeckner…the list of successes goes on. There’s something about combining the expressiveness of words, images, and narrative that can tell the story of a life like nothing else.

A recent addition to the canon is David Small’s memoir Stitches (W.W. Norton), which tells the story of the author’s youth in images as lucid as they are dreamlike. We begin with the author as a young boy, often sick, living with a distant, unhappy radiologist father and a depressed, pathologically stingy mother. When a possibly-cancerous cyst is discovered on David’s neck, he undergoes an operation leaves him literally unable to speak for nearly a decade.

What follows is a dark chronicle of the family’s dissolution rendered in images that can only be described as lovely. Lovely? It’s hard to explain how a young man’s notions of invisibility and rage can resonate so deeply when portrayed as Small portrays them, but that’s the mystery of the medium.

The melding of memoir and graphic novel is one of those alchemical developments which we can point to, gratefully, as a recent beacon of hope for the printed word. Paging through Stitches, a reader is certain that there is no other way that Small’s story might have been told.

Allen Say

Published September 23, 2009 by Molly

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All great children’s books contain a touch of melancholy. There’s a simple reason for this: greatness stems from honesty, and any adult looking back on his youth will always, if he is honest, experience a tinge of melancholy. If said adult happens to write a children’s book, this sadness will no doubt be expressed when he tells his story.

That said, Caldecott-winning author and illustrator Allen Say inhabits sadness more fully––and with more splendor––than any other children’s author that comes to mind. Say’s tales, which he realizes in detailed watercolors, are often filled with longing and loneliness. His characters are introspective and courageous: role models of a different sort than we are used to in our kid’s books.

Grandfather’s Journey tells the tale of Say’s elder male relative as he emigrates to America and struggles with an ever-present homesickness. Tea with Milk explores the story of a young girl who finds herself caught between two cultures. Both deal with the deepest emotions available to a human being, and it is to Say’s enormous credit that he entrusts his young readers with these particular feelings.