Genre: middle grade graphic novel autobiography
Length: 244 pages
Setting: a generic town in probably Virginia, probably in the 1980s
Interest: I’d seen positive comments about the book in various locations and it was a Kirkus Prize finalist and a Newbery Honor book. When I saw it at the library, I encouraged the kids to bring it home. When the kids both read the book multiple times, I decided perhaps I should read it as well.
Summary: Cece becomes deaf after a bout of meningitis at age four. She’s fitted with hearing aids, but still has a hard time understanding words. In Kindergarten, she attends a class with other partially deaf children and learns how to lip read, along with your typical Kindergarten activities. In first grade, she moves to a new neighborhood and attends public school. She uses a Phonic Ear in the classroom in order to hear her teacher more clearly. While she appreciates the clarity the Phonic Ear provides, she’s constantly worried the other kids will find her weird or not like her because of it. She goes through all the ups and downs of friendships and school, with the added complexity of her disability.
Final thoughts: This is a great book that helps the reader understand what it’s like to grow up at least moderately deaf. It’s childhood put forth in simple text and illustrations, but Cece has a whole extra level of anxiety in the “will they like me?” category of growing up because of her disability. She wants a good friend, of course, but often has to make tradeoffs between someone who doesn’t care about my disability but isn’t the best friend and someone who has a lot in common with her but makes a big deal about her deafness. She finally finds a friend in Martha, but even that great friendship has its hardships and difficulties.
You don’t even realize the book is actually an autobiography until the text at the end of the story. As a bonus, all this is done with illustrations, which may attract some readers who wouldn’t choose the book for its topic. I highly recommend the book to all ages.
Title comes from: El Deafo is the superhero alternate ego of Cece that she fantasizes about in difficult situations. El Deafo uses her Super Hearing (provided by the Phonic Ear) and other super powers to help her defeat her foes (like a band of pajama-wearing super villains that come from a sleepover).
Reading challenges fulfilled: 23/100 in my Finally to 100 Challenge
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