The Motherhood in Stitches and Spinning

Visual Representation of Barbara’s Motherhood as depicted by
Tillie Walden

Tillie Walden, the author of Spinning and David Small, the author Stitches, both provide illustrative narratives of their childhood. Both authors assessing how the paternal figures in their lives played a pivotal role in their upbringing and upbringing. From a very young age, Tillie’s life revolved around figure skating; she would begin and end her day with skating. While her Dad was mainly responsible for being present at her practices and events, it was her mother who seemed to enforce Tillie’s participation. Throughout the book, the reader witnesses how the mother’s blatant neglect impacts Tillie. The readers also get a glimpse of Barbara (shown left) later on in the book, which represents how Tillie would interact with her mother had she been more present in her life. 

Visual Representation of Mama’s Motherhood as depicted by
David Small

David Small faces similar issues with his mother throughout his childhood. In Stitches, David illustrates all the interactions with his mother as unfavorable, and the reader is only exposed to the wrath of her anger. The stark difference in Motherhood between these two maternal figures is captured when comparing the illustrative techniques used to portray them. The first technique the Authors utilize is the symphonic effect of all-at-onceness. Highly esteemed Comic expert, Hillary Chute, states that “In Comics, reading can happen in all directions; this open- endedness and attention to choice in how one interacts with the pages, is a part of the appeal of comics narrative.” (Chute 25). David Small and Tillie Walden both use this effect to draw the reader’s attention to the focal point of the page. Therefore, when the illustrations are presented, they don’t need to fill up the entire page to captivate the reader. The effect of all-at-onceness also allows the reader to analyze the image further. One can take into account the proportions of the characters represented in the picture. For example, Mama, drawn as a massive, devastating tsunami, is unapologetic and unforgiving towards David. It is clearly shown in the panel that David must step out of the way of his mother or get swept out of the way. Whereas in Spinning, the size of Barbara evokes a feeling of protection and safety within the protagonist and reader. 

Another example of how both Authors use similar illustrative techniques is through their writing by subtraction. Writing by subtraction is as much about what is outside the picture as what is inside it. In these two pages, the vast blank abyss creates a cool medium that “requires completion [of the narrative] from the audience.”(Chute 23). Both authors use this effect to show the rest of the world seemed to fade away when the protagonist was in the presence of their motherly figure; although for very different reasons. In the blank space surrounding Tillie, the reader can assume that she is happy and content in the shelter of Barbara. While in the empty space surrounding David, the reader can assume that he feels isolated and defenseless.

The Authors of Spinning and Stitches use similar illustrative techniques to respond to different rhetorical situations regarding the motherhood depicted in their books. In the first example, the symphonic effect created by all-at-onceness is used by both authors to center the reader’s attention to the center of the page. The effect encourages the reader to examine the illustration and further understand how motherhood impacts each protagonist differently. In the second example, the reader is subject to a cool medium where they are tasked with completing the narrative of the panel. The Authors’ choice in writing by subtraction draws the reader closer to the protagonist by involving them in the story.

The annotations of Stitches and Spinning are provided.


CHUTE, HILLARY. WHY COMICS?: from Underground to Everywhere. HARPER COLLINS, 2019.

Small, David. Stitches: a Memoir. W. Ross MacDonald School Resource Services Library, 2013.

Walden, Tillie. Spinning. First Second, 2017.

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