El Deafo

El Deafo - Cece Bell


"And being different? That turned out to be the best part of all. I found that with a little creativity, and a lot of education, any difference can be turned into something amazing. Our differences are our superpowers."

- Cece Bell, El Deafo



This is a graphic memoir about the author's own childhood. In the 1970's, technology was nowhere near as advanced as it is today. At 4-years old, Cece gets sick and loses her hearing. When she goes to school, she has to wear a big box (phonic ear) strapped to her chest to help her hear. So, in addition to feeling left out because she can't hear, she feels different because of the box. This novel tells the story of how Cece navigates the difficulties of growing up, navigating friendships, and trying to fit in.


The graphic novel is a great format for this story. Using rabbits is a perfect way to emphasize the hearing issue. The big ears provide a place to easily show the hearing aids, the wires and the box (phonic ear). The text bubble emphasizes Cece's difficulties. When she can't hear something, the fonts gradually fade out or the text bubbles are empty. When her well-meaning friend talks to Cece loudly, the fonts are larger and obviously represent a louder voice. 


When Cece realizes the phonic ear gives her the ability to hear the teacher wherever she is in the building, she imagines herself as a superhero, El Deafo. She pictures herself in a cape and develops her alter-ego. El Deafo helps her through the tough times and keeps her strong.


This heartwarming story helps the reader understand what it must have been like to grow up deaf and the difficulties a child faces trying to fit in. I loved every minute of this story. Cece is a great character and I admire her resilience. The illustrations are colorful and cute, perfect for the story.


Recommended to:

Readers in grades 4 and up. I think anyone who reads this story will enjoy it. It is especially good for reluctant readers or kids facing difficulties.