Reading Cece Bell’s graphic memoir, El Deafo, is an experience. El Deafo, a 2015 Newbery Honor Book, tells the story of Bell’s childhood, beginning at age four when she loses her hearing from meningitis. The story follows Cece through the universal triumphs and insecurities, friendships and failures that come with growing up.
Cece fears that she’s too different from her hearing classmates and worries she won’t find any friends because of her clunky hearing aid, the Phonic Ear. El Deafo is the story of how Cece learns that her Phonic Ear is not only an aid for hearing, but a tool used to create her alternate identity and superhero counterpart: El Deafo.
Bell’s illustrations are clean and bright, paying tribute to the colorful characters that inhabit the memoir, while El Deafo‘s graphic novel form, coupled with the use of present tense and zoomorphic representations of characters as rabbits, creates just enough distance and immediacy for the reader to be constantly engaged. The graphic novel form, coupled with Bell’s neverending humor, provide the perfect highway to drive home Cece’s ability to accept and understand that her differences are her superpowers.
Recommendation: Highly Recommended; Age: 8-10+
Reviewer: Erin Koehler