El Deafo

Cece Bell

A graphic novel by Cece Bell, tracing the author’s experience of going deaf as a child.  The book focusses on the challenges of living with a hearing aid (the 1970s version being much more conspicuous than many modern day devices). The themes it explores are however ones that all children will be familiar with in different ways: making friends (and falling out with them); new schools; being different; first crushes; and growing independence.  Cece creates a superhero ‘El Deafo’ to navigate through these challenges and turns her difference into an asset.  As well as being a moving and engaging story, this is a great introduction to graphic novels – the drawings are simple and clear and fit the text brilliantly.  The book also is very accessible and works on a number of different levels making it a satisfying read for 7 years right up to YA (and I know many adults who have loved it).

Cece Bell has a website with further information about how she came to write the book and she has also done a trailer for the book on YouTube.  For further background there is a good interview with Cece in The Guardian and an account of how she made El Deafo told through pictures.  For anyone looking to read it in a book group or at school, the publisher has produced (a US focused) teaching guide and Dr Meryl Jaffe has written another useful discussion guide as part of her series about using graphic novels in education.  There are also some insightful reviews by children here and many on the Guardian’s children’s book site such as this one which won a young critics competition.