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.
Super adorable comic about being deaf while growing up in the 1970s, told through bunnies! Adorable bunnies!
Personal stories told though graphic novels are always going to be interesting to me, especially if they’re illustrated by the author. (See: Perseoplis, Fun Home.) I think it’s because the author is in control of the art as well as the story.
Like, they’re deciding how the characters look, how the world looks, and it somehow makes reading their books an even more intimate experience than reading a straight-up text memoir can be. It’s kinda like looking directly into their brains, only less gross.
That makes El Deafo fun for kids and adults! Kids will like it because of the bunnies and the personal story of growing up differently from most other people. Adults will like it because of the bunnies and because of the great themes running throughout.
Themes like friendship! How being different is not a bad thing (but neither is it easy)! Understanding different situations and communication and standing up for yourself! How to deal with school and teachers and peer pressure!
It’s also super interesting learning about what it was like to be deaf in the 1970s. And I appreciated that Cece Bell took the time at the end of the book to explain that El Deafo is what it’s like to be deaf FOR HER. She emphasizes that her story is not all deaf stories, just one person’s experiences and memories.
Read: August 30, 2014