March 14 2016 03:11 PM

Author/illustrator David Small on working with his wife

MONDAY, March 14 — “Illustrating Sarah's stories has broadened my scope as an artist and storyteller,” said David Small.

David Small
Courtesy photo
Small, an author/illustrator and National Book Award Finalist for his bleak memoir-cum-graphic novel “Stitches,” is talking about fellow author and wife, Sarah Stewart. The airy children’s book “The Gardener,” which won the duo a Caldecott Honor Award, was written by Stewart and illustrated by Small.

“I naturally tend toward the mischievous and the offbeat,” Small said. “Retelling Sarah's stories in pictures has made me reach deep into myself for a warmth and a tenderness that I would normally not display.” said Small.

The joining of that offbeat sensibility and tender sensitivity began when Small and Stewart met while both were working at State University of New York at Fredonia. In college, Small initially studied playwriting, while Stewart studied Latin and philosophy.

Yet, the pair were artists destined for the pages of books — books which would contain no stage direction or references to Aristotle. Small eventually switched his major to art, and Stewart moved into the writing world. Soon, they were working together.

The two combined forces to write and illustrate children’s books, creating storybooks like “The Money Tree,” “The Library,” “The Journey,” “The Friend” and, most recently, “The Quiet Place.”

“I actually don't think I would have been as successful if it were not for the work I've done with Sarah. It has to have created in the mind of my public a kind of unpredictability, and I like to think that that unpredictability is beneficial,” Small said. “I like to imagine I'm good at all the styles and types of stories I've done, so that people trust my work and look forward to not knowing exactly what they'll get when the open my next book.”

Their collaborative spirit notwithstanding, Small and Stewart split up when creating their respective works. Stewart prefers writing at home in a tranquil environment, while Small heads off for his studio, a short walk away.

“It keeps me out from Sarah's affairs and her out of mine,” he said. “That is, it provides the chance for utter selfishness and privacy that is essential to all people who do creative work. Also, Sarah prefers a monk-like silence, while music, often played very loud, is an important part of my workday.”

Eli Klein is online content and PR coordinator at Capital Area District Libraries.

Meet author/illustrator David Small

“Stitches” presentation, book sale and signing

7:30 p.m. Friday, March 18

Ages 13 and up

FREE, but registration is required; call to register

CADL Downtown Lansing Branch

401 S. Capitol, Ave., Lansing

(517) 367-6363 ext. 3,

Free parking is available after 6 p.m. at City of Lansing meters, lots and ramps.

Meet the Author & Illustrator: Sarah Stewart & David Small

Presentation on the creative process for young aspiring writers and artists, book sale and signing

2-3 p.m. Saturday, March 19

Ages 6 and up

FREE, but registration is required; call to register

CADL South Lansing Branch

3500 S. Cedar St., Lansing

(517) 272-9840,