David Small is one of my favorite illustrators. He is a Caldecott winning illustrator, in fact, and has written and/or illustrated these (among others) great books: The Money Tree (written by his wife Sarah Stewart, this is a top favorite of mine), Imogene’s Antlers (who doesn’t love this imaginative story?), So You Want to Be President? (garnered a Caldecott, not too shabby), The Gardener (I get teary at the end, no kidding!), and The Library (what librarian doesn’t love this?). I mention all these because it’s good to bear in mind as you read this terribly sad story of his life: “look at all he’s done, there is a happy ending to this story.” It’s good to know that because it would be so dreadfully painful otherwise. Which makes you just realize even further how painful his life was because at age 8 I’m sure he didn’t know he’d grow up and write and illustrate gorgeous heart warming books and be recognized for his extreme talent. (I also mention those titles because if you’ve never read them you should get them next time you are at the library. Go ahead, you can spare five minutes to read a lovely story.)
His illustration style works wonderfully in this graphic novel memoir. As a very young child David underwent two surgeries and had his thyroid gland and one vocal chord removed. No one told him that would happen or told him why it did. Instead he wakes up with no voice and his family continues to be mostly unkind and mean to him. His grandmother is downright crazy and cruel and he does a great job at showing a little boy’s scared confused perspective of all of this.
This is a deeply moving memoir and I really felt it perfectly matched the format. It also comes across as very shocking because honestly, who knew all this stuff about him??