Thursday, December 25, 2014

Book Review: El Deafo

Three of the best children’s books of 2014 are autobiographical including THE SCRAPS BOOK and BROWN GIRL DREAMING. EL DEAFO is at the top of my list. Feature all three in your library and encourage youth to write their own stories.

EL DEAFO by Cece Bell is a powerful graphic memoir focusing on the frustration of growing up with a hearing impairment. While Cece’s story highlights the embarrassment and loneliness of deafness experienced by many children, the universal themes of friendship and acceptance are at the core of this unforgettable story.

The author’s warm and honest approach to storytelling contribute to it’s appeal. Cece’s “listener for all” alter-ego El Deafo is wonderfully drawn in sequences placed in green bubbles to separate them from reality.

Besides the exceptional storyline, what makes EL DEAFO so magnificent is the graphic memoir format. Many students who might overlook the traditional autobiographical format will embrace the simple, well-drawn, visually-rich approach.

Librarians who grew up in the 60s-70s will enjoy her spot-on references to everything from Batman and John-Boy to Hostess Cherry Pies and sleep-overs. You may even be moved to sing Yellow Submarine.

Having experienced hearing loss as an adult due to an illness, I can empathize with Cece’s frustrations. Like Cece, my problem isn’t with volume, it’s clarity of sound. Her book does an outstanding job educating readers about how to interact with a person with hearing loss. These small informative details make this much more than your typical graphic memoir.

To learn more about Geisel honor book winner Cece Bell, go to her website at