When the National Book Award nominations were announced earlier this afternoon, we were struck by one book in particular: David Small‘s graphic novel Stitches, one of the five finalists in the Young People’s Literature category. What puzzled us was that we remembered all the buzz surrounding Stitches at this year’s BookExpo America, and we hadn’t gotten any impression that this was YA material—yes, it’s an autobiographical comic book about the writer/artist’s adolescence, but so is Alison Bechdel‘s Fun Home.
“There was a question among the judges [in the young people’s literature category],” Harold Augenbraum, the executive director of the National Book Foundation, told us when we called asking about the nomination, “but it ultimately depends on where the publisher nominates the book, and this is where [Norton] nominated it.”
“We always intended to submit Stitches in the young people’s category,” confirmed Erin Sinesky Lovett, Norton’s assistant director of publicity. “We knew it would appeal to a YA audience as well as an adult audience.” She added that because Small had never written for an adult readership before, the graphic novel could be seen as a “transitional” work, building from his distinguished background as a children’s book writer and illustrator, and observed that the story was “age-appropriate” for teen readers who grew up on Small’s earlier work.
We took another quick look at the book this afternoon, and though we’ll be re-reading it closely just to make sure, we can’t argue with that. And thus David Small becomes the second graphic novelist (after Gene Luen Yang to be in the running for a National Book Award—we’ll see what happens at the awards ceremony next month!
(And, in a neat twist, it’s now the second consecutive year Small’s illustrated an NBA nominee—he also did the artwork for Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath.)