Author: CeCe Bell
Illustrator: CeCe Bell
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Publication Date: September 2nd, 2014
Genre/Format: Autobiography/Graphic Novel
GoodReads Summary: Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful—and very awkward—hearing aid.
The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear—sometimes things she shouldn’t—but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her as she is. After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she’s longed for.
What I Think: I'm thrilled that CeCe shared her story! I especially love that she told it in graphic novel format. After working with students who are deaf and hard of hearing, I know how important it is for them to be able to connect with others who have similar experiences that they do. I worked primarily with hard of hearing students. Many wore hearing aids and FM systems similar to the Phonic Ear that CeCe wears in the book. The trickiest part about being hard of hearing (in my opinion), is that people don't quite understand how much your hearing loss impacts you. I remember so many times when a classroom teacher told me my student could hear just fine when really he or she maybe could hear but not clearly understand what he or she was hearing. Because a person who is hard of hearing can hear a lot of what is going on, I think it makes it seem like he or she knows what is going on in the conversation but there are times when they don't. I spent a lot of time working on coping strategies with my students. We would talk about what to do in different situations depending on what was happening. There are different strategies they can use to advocate for themselves depending on what makes listening difficult in a situation.
Being deaf or hard of hearing is not easy and there usually aren't many others who are also deaf or hard of hearing to connect with. Lots of times, students who are deaf or hard of hearing are in mainstream classes and rarely see another student who has a hearing aid or uses sign language. Having El Deafo is great because students can read about a character they can identify with. Many students who are deaf or hard of hearing rely on visual cues just like CeCe in the book. This is why I love that this book is in graphic novel format. It makes CeCe's story accessible to so many readers regardless of their age level.
My sister is hard of hearing. Growing up, it wasn't something we talked about much or paid attention to. She wore a hearing aid for a short time but after feeling like it only amplified all the noise in the room, she stopped wearing it. It wasn't until I was in college, student teaching and working with hard of hearing students that I realized how she was impacted by her hearing loss. I went to school to work with students who are deaf but once I was student teaching, I realized how a hearing loss can impact a child who is hard of hearing, whose hearing loss isn't as severe as someone who is deaf. My sister would mis-hear certain phrases or song lyrics and she often asked us to repeat what we said. School seemed more difficult for her than me and she was often so tired at night. After reading El Deafo, I knew this book was one my sister needed to read. At first she wasn't excited to read it. Bringing attention to her hearing loss isn't something she enjoys but as she started reading it, she softened to the story. Knowing that there were others who felt how she felt seemed to help her know she wasn't alone.
For readers who don't know anyone who is deaf or hard of hearing, this will be a great read. I hope and anticipate that they'll think differently about kids who have hearing loss and who might have to wear hearing aids or FM systems. For readers who are deaf of hard of hearing, this will be a great read, too -and possibly more so. I hope and anticipate that they'll find a real life character they can identify with and it might make them think differently about themselves and their hearing loss. It's pretty amazing to be able to identify with a character in a book and I don't think it's often enough that a child who is deaf or hard of hearing gets to do that.
This is a super special book and I hope you share it with readers of all ages! Kellee Moye contributed to the Teachers' Guide for El Deafo if you are interested in checking it out, click here. I also blogged about books with deaf or hard of hearing characters in them when I celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Schneider Family Book Award.
Read Together: Grades 3 - 5
Read Alone: Grades 3 - 12
Read With: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo, Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby, Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
Snatch of Text:
Topics Covered: Family, Friendship, Adversity, Courage
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