Saturday, September 13, 2014

El Deafo by Cece Bell

This charming graphic novel will be loved by a wide range of readers. Although the characters are all rabbits, it's the true story of the author's girlhood and she dealt with sudden hearing loss at age four. Cece has all the insecurities and endearing hopefulness of any little girl, but her life is made much more complicated by the big hearing aid box that she must wear around her neck while at school. She spend one year in a special kindergarten class where she learns to read lips, but after that she is in public schools. Although her box sets her apart, she sometimes sees it as giving her super hearing and she fantasizes that she is a fearless superhero called "El Deafo." She longs for a true friend, and finds several friends as the book goes on. One tries to manipulate her, one makes a big deal out of her hearing loss (always talking slowly and loudly), and one shies away from her out of guilt. There are small moments that made me really empathize with kids with hearing issues, especially the time when, at a slumber party, Cece is shut out of the conversation because the girls turn out the lights. My 9-year-old son loved this book, and I suspect kids from 2nd through 8th grades will enjoy it on many levels. Anyone who grew up in the 1970s will also recognize their childhood in Cece's story. I recently met Cece Bell for the first time at the Decatur Book Festival. We went to the College of William & Mary together, although we never knew each other there. She is the author/illustrator of a series of Sock Monkey monkey picture books which I love, and her husband is Tom Angleberger, author of the Origami Yoda books.

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