Rummanah Aasi
I know many of us have limited reading time and we all want to fill it with quality books. If your reading schedule allows for a graphic novel, be sure to squeeze in Cece Bell's fabulous memoir El Deafo. The graphic novel has won awards and received critical acclaim. I absolutely loved it and it will definitely go on my favorite books of 2015 list.

Description: 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 the teacher's 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?

Review: El Deafo is a humorous and touching graphic memoir about growing up deaf, finding friendship, and self acceptance. When Cece is 4 years old, she becomes deaf after contracting meningitis. She begins to realize that her world is changing when she is fitted with a hearing aid and learns to read lips. Cece is even enrolled in a school for deaf children in order to equip her with new resources and skills such as teaching her how to lip read. Cece finds the new adjustments to her lifestyle frustrating and challenging.
  After her family moves to a new town, Cece begins first grade at a school that doesn't have separate classes for the deaf. Like many children of her age, she is anxious and scared to start a new school with new kids. She is constantly worried what her peers reaction will be to her new hearing aid, called the Phonic Ear, which allows her to hear her teacher clearly, even when her teacher is in another part of the school. The Phonic Ear is bulky, hard to hide, and uncomfortable to wear. Cece can't help but feel different and alone much like her favorite superheroes. It dawns on Cece that like her idols, she too has a special ability and in her fantasies she becomes the superhero "El Deafo", who is her subconscious and fights against her fears and self doubt.
 What I loved about this graphic novel is warmth and sensitivity Bell brings to her story. The word clouds of fading words or squiggly lines indicate misheard speech. All the human characters are anthropomorphic rabbits coupled with humor and relatable problems such as finding real friends and dealing with a school crush, makes the story more accessible and takes it a few steps above a "disability book". I empathized with Cece as she struggled to find friends who weren't bossy or inconsiderate. I also appreciated Cece's honesty in not wanting to learn ASL at first, but most of all I  loved her epiphany that hearing disability doesn't define her as a person and her journey of self acceptance, which is what makes her worthy of a superhero.

Rating: 5 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 2 and up. I have this graphic novel in my high school collection and it has been circulating quite often.

If you like this book try: Smile by Raina Telgemeier, Stitches by David Small
5 Responses
  1. I love novels like this and hope that every school has it in their library!

  2. This book is definitely on my TBR pile but i think I'd better move it higher on the list. Thanks.

  3. Kindlemom Says:

    I love the sounds of this! My daughter's school has one of the best audiology departments and I love it because she gets to interact with these wonderful children every day and has already learned so much from them (including sign language!).
    Great review!

  4. I don't normally read graphic novels, but this one sounds amazing. I've always been fascinated with ASL and deaf culture and so am definitely going to check this out.

  5. This one sounds really good; I am going to see if my school has it in the Library and if not, I'll suggest it. Thank you!

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