Book Review: El Deafo

by Cece Bell

A Graphic Novel Book Review by Jackie Houchin

I didn’t realize when I bought this book that it was a “graphic novel” – not written in paragraphs, but in comic boxes, cartoon characters, and speech bubbles. I was disappointed at first, but decided to give it a try. I opened and read chapter one – the very sad episode where Cece, a four-year-old girl gets meningitis and becomes mostly deaf because it.  The slow loss of her hearing was illustrated so well as fading words in the speech bubbles!

Okay, you know what happened.  I stayed up and read the whole book in one sitting.

The story follows Cece through getting a hearing aid – the kind with a box and wires to aids in her ears. (NOTE: This is the actual story of the author, so hearing aids have advanced quite a bit from then till now. I know, I wear a pair.). The aids are upgraded as she grows, and when she goes to school she gets what they call a “school aid” by Phonic Ear, where the teacher wears a microphone. The sound goes directly to Cece’s ears, much like the Bluetooth we have today. This was a great improvement, but it led to a couple very funny incidents when the teacher left the classroom to use the restroom!!

The book covers other things that hearing people do that are not helpful to those with hearing loss, like talking louder, slower, or over-emphasizing words, turning their faces away so no lips can be read, and in making fun of the mistakes and the bulking hearing aids. It also covers lip-reading (and when it doesn’t work, like in the dark at sleep-overs, or when the person turns away or covers their mouthes). Surprisingly, there is a very little about sign language, perhaps because Cece wasn’t completely deaf.

This book would be great for kids 7-12 who are around low-hearing other kids or adults. It would help them be more sensitive to the disability. The book received the Newberry Honor award and I highly recommend it. Adults, you can read it too, and maybe read to a child and explain along the way.









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