Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Children's Book Review: El Deafo (Ages 8-12)

El Deafo
Cece Bell

This is the memoir of young Cece Bell. Cece loves riding on her dad’s bike, watching TV with her siblings, and singing. Everything changes when she is struck with severe spinal meningitis. After a lengthy stay at the hospital, it seems that everything is fine…until Cece and her parents realize that the illness has badly damaged her hearing.

Cece tells the story of how she navigates the tricky world of public school with the mission of finding one true friend. Her story is one that I can certainly relate to. The alliances and melodramas of elementary school friendships are a constant no matter the time or place. We all go through it. At the same time, her story is a revelation about all the new difficulties that arise for people with impaired hearing. Anxiety over standing out too much, friends being too sensitive or not sensitive enough, even watching TV is hard! Cece can read lips, but she still needs some help and she’s afraid to ask her friends and teachers to be mindful of her needs. To help her cope, Cece creates a superhero persona called El Deafo to help her embrace her differences and have fun with the special abilities made possible by her hearing aid.

Cece’s story is beautifully drawn in graphic novel format in a style that is fun and accessible. Cece and her friends are depicted as rabbits, which actually doesn’t make it over the top cutesy. It just makes the text that much more appealing for readers of many ages. While the story could easily be preachy or heavy since it is about overcoming hardship in childhood, Cece’s point of view is light-hearted and straightforward. She leads readers through the difficulties of her experience, allowing all to connect through common experiences and see the world through her eyes. I think it’s a must-read for all ages. This is a great recommendation for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid who like humorous first-person accounts from another kid’s life. It’s great fun and very enlightening.

Mollie McFarland
Springville Road Library

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