Wednesday, September 17, 2014

El Deafo

A new category of memoir has appeared on stage in children's literature: graphic novel memoirs. I first saw what an effective medium this could be in Raina Telgemeier's Sisters. El Deafo is another perfect example of how fascinating and funny a memoir can be when it's delivered in graphic novel form.

El Deafo narrates author Cece Bell's childhood from age 4, when she loses her hearing as a result of meningitis, to about 5th grade. Bell uses anthropomorphic bunnies to represent herself, her family and friends. This is really a fabulous idea as bunny ears are very noticeable, and Bell clearly feels similarly about her hearing aids. As Bell begins school and realizes that lip-reading is not quite adequate, she receives a phonic ear which allows her to hear the teacher through a special microphone around the teacher's neck. Bell spends the next few years with a secret: she can hear every conversation, every action of her teacher while the microphone is turned on, including her teacher's private discussions with other teachers in the hall and her teacher's um...bathroom activity. Bell clearly finds this amusing, and because of her newly discovered superpower, she nicknames herself El Deafo. Intertwined in her story is her struggle to feel normal and to find true friends. Many children who feel different in a variety of ways will identify strongly with Bell's feelings here. Parts of Bell's story are difficult and sad, but her strength and perseverance shines. You will not be able to resist rooting for El Deafo!


  1. Hi, Joy :) Am finally going through all the blogs I follow to figure out how to get a handle on all of it. I couldn't use my Reader successfully so only kept up with some through emails. That has proved to be way too time-consuming. So, I came in and saw you haven't posted for a while. I'm looking through the books you mentioned and this all looks good. Anyway, I'll be checking in from time to time to see what you're up to, if anything. Life is just too busy for all this stuff, right?!

    Anyway, I just finished El Deafo prior to #SharpSchu book club and was so happy for Cece that she won a Caldecott Honor! :)

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  3. People of all ages like graphic novels, so not surprising that it's successful.

  4. Such a superpower! I can imagine her amusement. Good for all ages.