Book Review: El Deafo

el-deafoStraying a bit from highlighting nominations to the NH Isinglass Teen Read Award list to mention El Deafo, written and illustrated by Cece Bell, that is nominated for the NH Great Stone Face Award for 4th through 6th graders and a recent winner of a Newbery Honor Award.

El Deafo is a graphic novel loosely based on Cece Bell’s own childhood growing up hearing impaired after a bout of meningitis left her severely to profoundly deaf at the age of 4.  Cece’s characters are all drawn as rabbits, because, as she says, rabbits are known for their ears, and when she was growing up, she felt like the only rabbit whose ears didn’t work.  Cece gives herself the superhero name “El Deafo” after she begins using a Phonic Ear device to better hear the teachers in school…and she discovers she can still hear the teachers if they’re not in the same room…provided they’re still wearing their piece of the Phonic Ear device.  

This is a truly wonderful, well-written story, with compelling characters.  Cece’s friends initially struggle with understanding her need to use the hearing device and accepting her as she is.  Cece wants to be treated like anyone else but the Phonic Ear distinguishes her as different.  The artwork is charming and the graphic format enhances the story beautifully. My 8 year old grabbed this book from my reading pile when she saw it was a graphic novel and devoured it…and we were both delighted when we found it at a Scholastic Book Fair soon afterward and snapped it up.  It’s a wonderful example of why telling our own stories are so valuable – we have deep truths that we can share that really do resonate with others even though the details of our story are what make us unique.


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