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Cece Bell's EL DEAFO - A Graphic Novel for All Audiences

by Sara Voigt (@meaningfulmadness)

Book Cover of El Deafo by Cece Bell

I am not a huge reader of graphic novels, but I have a personal interest in Cece Bell's autobiographical graphic novel, El Deafo. One of my favorite people in the whole world, my cousin, Bekah, has a similar story—ill at a young age which led to total hearing loss in both ears, a cochlear implant before starting school, and similar struggles to Cece throughout the course of her life. It was extremely appealing to read a novel which chronicled a similar story to my Bekah’s.


Clearly this graphic novel is something special. It won the Newbery in 2015. The humor and rawness with which Cece Bell portrays her story is deeply affecting, but peppered with humor so that it is accessible to a wide audience. I adore the way she incorporates herself and her alter-ego, El Deafo, within the story to depict what is actually happening versus what she desires to happen.


This graphic novel is a straightforward account of Bell's early years and how she transitions from a school for children with hearing loss, or students like her, to a mainstream school. It chronicles her struggles with friendships, academics, and coming of age being "different" from other students.


I so appreciate Bell's approach to these issues. I found myself laughing out loud in certain places. Because although I have never had hearing loss, I have been an awkward, unsure adolescent, and Bell's ability to capture this milestone will resonate with readers, hearing or non-hearing.


“And being different? That turned out to be the best part of all. I found that with a little creativity, and a lot of dedication, any difference can be turned into something amazing. Our differences are our superpowers.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic novel from start to finish, and would recommend it to teachers, parents, and upper elementary/lower middle school kiddos. This book is a must-read for young readers.



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