David Small was born in Detroit, Michigan. He began drawing at two years old and health problems having kept him home for much of his childhood. He attended Cass Technical High School, wrote plays throughout his teenage years, but at age 21 switched to art. He earned a bachelor of fine arts degree at Wayne State University and a master of fine arts degree at Yale University. Small taught art for many years on the college level, ran a film series, and made satirical sketches for campus newspapers. His first book, which he wrote and illustrated, Eulalie and the Hopping Head, was published in 1981.
Small earned the 1997 Caldecott Honor and The Christopher Medal for The Gardener, with Sarah Stewart, his wife, recipient of the 2007 Michigan Author Award. In 2001 he won the Caldecott Medal for So You Want to Be President?, combining political cartooning with children's book illustration. Small's drawings have appeared in the New Yorker and the New York Times. In 2013 he earned yet another Caldecott Honor for his illustrations in "One Cool Friend".
David Small's graphic memoir, Stitches, was published in September, 2009. The novel is set in Detroit, where Small spent his childhood. As a young boy he was plagued with reoccurring respiratory problems. His father was a radiologist who, following the practice of the day, through x-rays and radiation therapy exposed his son to massive doses of radiation. While still at a young age, a growth began to form on Small's neck. Years after the diagnosis, Small awoke from this supposedly harmless operation to discover that he had been transformed into a virtual mute—one of his vocal cords had been removed along with the growth. He was fourteen, and had not been told that the radiation had given him cancer and was expected to die. From there things began to stack up as his parents' hidden distress and anger started to seep through in fits of sadness and rage directed towards him. When the world became too much for the extremely talented Small to handle he would escape into his own world of sketches and drawings. Stitches tells the story of Small's journey from sickly child to cancer patient, to the troubled teen who made a risky decision to run away from home at sixteen—with nothing more than the dream of becoming an artist.
Stitches, which has been translated into 7 different languages and published in 9 different countries, has been seen by more than one reviewer as not only a warning against careless medical practices but as a caution against wrongheaded family traditions. Small's family—on the surface a model of 1950's-style middle class contentment and success—was a tinderbox of closeted feelings and mental repression. It is a story about voicelessness—both physical and psychical—told artfully in pictures that made Jules Feiffer say, "It left me speechless."
Stitches has been reviewed by the New York Times and by the Los Angeles Times. In 2009, the book was a #1 New York Times Best Seller. It was named one of the ten best books of 2009 by Publishers Weekly and Amazon.com. It was also a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award for Young People's Literature.
As writer and illustrator 
- Eulalie and the Hopping Head by David Small (MacMillan, 1982; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001) - a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year.
- Imogene's Antlers by David Small (Crown 1985)
- Paper John by David Small (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1987)
- Ruby Mae Has Something to Say by David Small (Crown, 1992)
- Hoover's Bride by David Small (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 1995)
- Fenwick's Suit by David Small (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996)
- George Washington's Cows by David Small (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997)
- Stitches by David Small (W.W. Norton & Company, 2009)
As illustrator with Sarah Stewart 
- The Money Tree by Sarah Stewart (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994)
- The Library by Sarah Stewart (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995)
- The Gardener by Sarah Stewart (Trumpet Club, 1998) - Caldecott Honor
- The Journey by Sarah Stewart (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001) - A Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal Best Book of the Year.
- The Friend by Sarah Stewart (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004)
As illustrator with other writers 
- Company's Coming by Arthur Yorinks (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 1988)
- A Surfeit of Similes by Norton Juster (William Morrow & Company, 1989)
- Petey's Bedtime Story by Beverly Cleary (HarperCollins Publishers, 1993)
- The Christmas Crocodile by Bonnie Becker (Simon & Schuster, 1998)
- Huckabuck Family: And How They Raised Popcorn in Nebraska and Quit and Came Back by Carl Sandburg (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999)
- So You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George (Philomel, 2000) - Year 2000 Notable Books by the New York Times, one of the Best Children's Books 2000 by Publishers Weekly, winner of the 2001 Caldecott Medal
- Company's Going by Arthur Yorinks (Hyperion Books, 2001)
- The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2001)
- So You Want to Be an Inventor? by Judith St. George (Philomel, 2002)
- The Essential Worldwide Monster Guide by Linda Ashman (Simon & Schuster, 2003)
- So You Want to Be an Explorer? by Judith St. George (Philomel, 2005)
- My Senator and Me: A Dog's Eye View of Washington, D.C. by Edward Moore Kennedy (Scholastic, 2006)
- Once Upon a Banana by Jennifer Armstrong (Simon & Schuster, 2006)
- When Dinosaurs Came with Everything by Elise Broach (Atheneum, 2007)
- That Book Woman by Heather Henson (Atheneum, 2008)
- The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (Atheneum, 2008)
See also 
- Online biography from Parent's Choice Foundation
- Pippin Properties author biography
- American Library Association: Caldecott Medal & Honor Books, 1938-Present. Accessed April 27, 2013.
- CNN Book News report on David Small and U.S. News & World Report, 29 January 2001. pg 8 ("The cartoonist in chief").
- It's a David Small World: The Artwork of Caldecott Medal Winner David Small: Educator Guide. Multnomah County Library, October 24, 2002. Retrieved April 27, 2013.
- New York Times excerpt, September 8, 2009.
- Konigsberg, Eric. Finding a Voice in a Graphic Memoir. The New York Times, September 6, 2009.
- Woods, Paula L. Book Review: 'Stitches: A Memoir' by David Small. Los Angeles Times, September 13, 2009.
- Gustines, George Gene. Graphic Books Best Seller List. The New York Times, September 18, 2009.
- Best Books of 2009. Publishers Weekly, November 2, 2009.
- Best Books of 2009 - Editors' Picks: Top 100 Books. Amazon.com.
- National Book Awards - 2009.