El Deafo by Cece Bell (Graphic Novel Mini Review)

‘Somehow being alone is always easier for me. But it’s still, well, lonely!’

When Cece Bell was four she contracted meningitis and lost her hearing. This graphic novel tells the story of her elementary school years learning to communicate in a radical new way. Told in world where everything exists in the ‘real’ world except it is populated by rabbits. As Bell has said in interviews, a rather ironic choice due to the animal’s great hearing.

All the vulnerability, awkwardness, and hope of youth are drawn into the narrative. I loved so many moments. Early in the book, Cece asks herself over and over, ‘What would Batman do?’ But a bully’s slight on a TV show gives her a new name for an alter ego named El Deafo. Soon, her fantasies include the newly formed superhero with many powers. And as Bell says in the author’s note: Our differences are our superpowers.

I would recommend this one to anyone, but especially young people, looking for insights into what it is like to grow up with a significant difference, but also anyone looking to learn about another’s experience and develop an important sense of empathy for others. A powerful work. Loved it!

A very informative article from The Guardian about the making of El Deafo here.

El Deafo won a Newbery and an Eisner in 2015.


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