El Deafo

  • Type: Books
  • By: Cece Bell
  • Age Category: Children
  • Genre: Graphic Novels
  • Recommended by: Kate N.
  • ISBN/UPC: 9781419710209
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A deaf superhero tells her origin story

After a childhood bout of meningitis, Cece Bell was left “severely to profoundly” deaf. Now an author and illustrator (probably best known for her Sock Monkey series for younger readers), Bell has told her story as a graphic novel, and it’s funny, honest and hugely appealing. The book is narrated by young Cece, who is hilariously blunt about the kind but condescending ways that people communicate with her: talking very slowwwly, telling her how “special” she is, treating her like someone to be taken care of and therefore unintentionally kept at a distance. Bell is really in touch with the emotions of youth and the angst that comes with wanting to be like everyone else: Cece wants so badly to fit in, but realizes that she can get positive attention for the “superpowers” conferred by her hearing aid, especially the ability to hear the teacher using the bathroom.

Bell’s illustrations are crisp and bright, with her characters depicted as rabbits for a reason that is never explained but somehow makes complete sense. (If that sounds off-putting to you, trust me, you stop noticing.) The facial expressions are perfect, as are little period details reminding us that the story takes place in the 70s (an abundance of striped t-shirts, Flintstones reruns on the clunky old TV). The book is educational in the subtlest way, almost incidentally – you’ll learn a lot about what it was like to be a deaf child 40 years ago, but not because you’re being schooled in it. More than anything it’s gently funny and very memorable. Readers who have enjoyed Raina Telgemeier’s “Smile” or R.J. Palacio’s Wonder books will definitely like this one.