Author: Cece Bell
Published: September 2, 2014
233 Page Graphic Novel
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: October 11-12, 2017
Jessica’s Rating: 4.5 stars
Book Description from Goodreads
Starting at a new school is scary, even more so with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece’s class was deaf. Here she is different. She is sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, the powerful aid that will help her hear her teacher. Too bad it also seems certain to repel potential friends.
Then Cece makes a startling discovery. With the Phonic Ear she can hear her teacher not just in the classroom, but anywhere her teacher is in school–in the hallway…in the teacher’s lounge…in the bathroom! This is power. Maybe even superpower! Cece is on her way to becoming El Deafo, Listener for All. But the funny thing about being a superhero is that it’s just another way of feeling different… and lonely. Can Cece channel her powers into finding the thing she wants most, a true friend?
This funny perceptive graphic novel memoir about growing up hearing impaired is also an unforgettable book about growing up, and all the super and super embarrassing moments along the way.
I don’t read or review many children’s books. I don’t have children so I feel I can’t give a proper review of them. Until I come across a book (or graphic novel in this case) like El Deafo! This is also my first graphic novel to review. This is a very important graphic novel that is also the semi-autobiographical story of Cece Bell and her experiences of going to school as the only deaf student in her class. Cece wrote and illustrated this graphic novel and she also came up with the name El Deafo herself when she was a child.
El Deafo begins when Cece is four years old; she contracts meningitis and loses her hearing. She uses a hearing aid, but sometimes the words she hears she can’t understand and she must rely on visual clues and lip reading. The graphic novel takes place over several years, so we get to see Cece grow up. We see how Cece adjusts to the hearing aid and over time she overcomes her insecurities.
Bell does a great job giving us Cece’s feelings of insecurities over the course of the novel. I felt everything Cece felt as I was reading it. It is portrayed so well as these were her feelings as a child. You also begin to understand what a deaf person goes through to try and communicate with the hearing world. It can be different for every deaf person, but I felt I learned something reading this graphic novel. It is great for adults too!
I can see this being a great book for younger children. El Deafo can help kids realize that everyone is different and how insecure and lonely others can be. This book could represent any disability that is out there. I did struggle with the ending of the book where Cece becomes the ‘class hero’, as it is not the best situation. I had issues with the teacher leaving the classroom without any adult supervision. That just begs for trouble. But it helped Cece to achieve what she needed.
There is an author’s note at the end where Bell explains some about the Deaf community which is also known as the Deaf culture. Every deaf person is different and there are many levels of deafness. This is a graphic novel I think everyone should read. We need more novels like this out there to help children with whatever disability they have feel some empowerment.
El Deafo is a graphic novel geared towards children and the illustrations are simple, but the characters are expressive. There is a lot of detail given in each panel. The drawings help with the range of emotions Cece feels throughout the novel. Bell’s characters are rabbits and I found her explanation of this on Goodreads:
“Because rabbits have big ears. I thought it would be a perfect visual metaphor to portray myself as the only rabbit in a crowd of rabbits whose ears do not work. Also, as a kid, I felt very conspicuous with my hearing aid cords going up to my ears…and showing those cords going way up over my head into my rabbit ears is pretty close to how I thought others must be perceiving me. Finally, you can’t top rabbits for cuteness!”
El Deafo is recommended.