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El Deafo

El Deafo

4.7 13
by Cece Bell

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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


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.

"A standout autobiography. Someone readers will enjoy getting to know."
--Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Worthy of a superhero."
--Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"This empowering autobiographical story belongs right next to Raina Telgemeier’s Smile (2011) and Liz Prince’s Tomboy."

Editorial Reviews

★ 09/01/2014
Gr 2–6—Cece loses her hearing from spinal meningitis, and takes readers through the arduous journey of learning to lip read and decipher the noise of her hearing aid, with the goal of finding a true friend. This warmly and humorously illustrated full-color graphic novel set in the suburban '70s has all the gripping characters and inflated melodrama of late childhood: a crush on a neighborhood boy, the bossy friend, the too-sensitive-to-her-Deafness friend, and the perfect friend, scared away. The characters are all rabbits. The antics of her hearing aid connected to a FM unit (an amplifier the teacher wears) are spectacularly funny. When Cece's teacher leaves the FM unit on, Cece hears everything: bathroom visits, even teacher lounge improprieties It is her superpower. She deems herself El Deafo! inspired in part by a bullied Deaf child featured in an Afterschool Special. Cece fearlessly fantasizes retaliations. Nevertheless, she rejects ASL because it makes visible what she is trying to hide. She ventures, "Who cares what everyone thinks!" But she does care. She loathes the designation "special," and wants to pass for hearing. Bell tells it all: the joy of removing her hearing aid in summer, the troubles watching the TV when the actor turns his back, and the agony of slumber party chats in the dark. Included is an honest and revealing afterword, which addresses the author's early decision not to learn ASL, her more mature appreciation for the language, and her adage that, "Our differences are our superpowers."—Sara Lissa Paulson, The American Sign Language and English Lower School, New York City
The New York Times Book Review - Katherine Bouton
It takes a bit of an inner superhero to get along as someone "special" in a classroom full of "normal" kids. Bell's book should be an inspiration for those who are "different," and it should help others to understand just what being different means. Required reading isn't always fun reading. El Deafo should be the first and is definitely the second.
Publishers Weekly
★ 07/07/2014
A bout of childhood meningitis left Bell (Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover) deaf at age four, and she was prescribed a Phonic Ear, with a receiver draped across her chest and a remote microphone her teachers wore. Her graphic memoir records both the indignities of being a deaf child in a hearing community (“IS. THAT. AAAY. HEAR-ING. AAAID?”) and its joys, as when she discovers that the microphone picks up every word her teacher says anywhere in the school. Bell’s earnest rabbit/human characters, her ability to capture her own sonic universe (“eh sounz lah yur unnah wawah!”), and her invention of an alter ego—the cape-wearing El Deafo, who gets her through stressful encounters (“How can El Deafo free herself from the shackles of this weekly humiliation?” she asks as her mother drags her to another excruciating sign language class)—all combine to make this a standout autobiography. Cece’s predilection for bursting into tears at the wrong time belies a gift for resilience that makes her someone readers will enjoy getting to know. Ages 8–12. Agent: Caryn Wiseman, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Sept.)
Metro US - Emily Laurence

"This book is aimed at middle schoolers, but this poignant story is one people of all ages will enjoy and can learn from."
New York Times Book Review - Katherine Bouton

"Bell’s book should be an inspiration for those who are ‘different,’ and it should help others to understand just what being different means. Required reading isn’t always fun reading. El Deafo should be the first and is definitely the second."
Shelf Awareness

"This funny and poignant memoir in graphic novel format about a child grappling with hearing loss, entering school and making friends is ideal for kids navigating new experiences."
The Horn Book Magazine - Deirdre F. Baker

"This memoir is thus exceptionally informative and entertaining in relation to some aspects of deaf communication, but, most centrally and powerfully, it is exceptional for its perceptive, indomitable protagonist and complex story of friendship, growth, and classroom and family dynamics."
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-07-22
A humorous and touching graphic memoir about finding friendship and growing up deaf. When Cece is 4 years old, she becomes "severely to profoundly" deaf after contracting meningitis. Though she is fitted with a hearing aid and learns to read lips, it's a challenging adjustment for her. After her family moves to a new town, Cece begins first grade at a school that doesn't have separate classes for the deaf. Her nifty new hearing aid, the Phonic Ear, allows her to hear her teacher clearly, even when her teacher is in another part of the school. Cece's new ability makes her feel like a superhero—just call her "El Deafo"—but the Phonic Ear is still hard to hide and uncomfortable to wear. Cece thinks, "Superheroes might be awesome, but they are also different. And being different feels a lot like being alone." Bell (Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover, 2012) shares her childhood experiences of being hearing impaired with warmth and sensitivity, exploiting the graphic format to amplify such details as misheard speech. Her whimsical color illustrations (all the human characters have rabbit ears and faces), clear explanations and Cece's often funny adventures help make the memoir accessible and entertaining. Readers will empathize with Cece as she tries to find friends who aren't bossy or inconsiderate, and they'll rejoice with her when she finally does. Worthy of a superhero. (author's note) (Graphic memoir. 8 & up)

Product Details

Amulet Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)
GN420L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years


Meet the Author

Cece Bell has written and illustrated several books for children, including the Geisel Honor book Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover. She lives in Virginia with her husband, author Tom Angleberger.


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El Deafo 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
1fishbone1 More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book! We love it! It is inspiring and beautiful and has such a great message and, like all of Cece Bell's books, is really well done!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great peek into the world of children. They can be mean, demanding, naive, insecure, and simply put; human. The storyline is just as relevant today as it was for the author in her childhood. I especially liked the colors throughout and how the characters are illustrated as animals. Well done Cece! Without reservation I would recommend this graphic novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a hard of hearing adult I wish I had this as a kid. Life would have been a tiny bit easier to deal with. Highly recommend getting this book for a child with hearing  impairment. Ages 6-8 seems to be the target age but really anyone with some sort of hearing loss can appreciate this book. I found myself feeling like "Yea! that is exactly how I feel!" or "So, it wasn't just me who felt that way." I buying this book to keep as a reminder that it's ok not to hear so well and it's ok to ask for help.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow...that book is an ammazing story of how a little girl catches this disease but still fights and how i can relate to this is because i lost my hearing at the age of 4
Anonymous 8 months ago
Best book ever I loved it it was awesome loved the comedy romance action scare and all the other features !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the book so much. It showed how kids with hard hearing live, and how school is hard somtimes. I also could relate to Ceca Bell in many ways. I also LOVEDthe pics. those were wonderful. I will read it over and over again. I wish there was another book after this. I would reccomend it to evryone.
Anonymous 3 days ago
It is ok
KarenEvans More than 1 year ago
Today I finally finished a book worthy of five stars! This is only my fourth five star review in 2016 and it goes to… EL DEAFO by Cece Bell!!! I didn’t know much about this book going into it other than that it was a middle grade graphic novel and that it was funny. In fact, a book talk about it by a Champaign Public Library librarian describing a bathroom scene actually caused one of my 4th graders to laugh so hard he had an asthma attack which resulted in him being sent home after a nebulizer treatment did little to help the situation… Yes, the book was that funny! 41V58xL9-LL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_ I was impressed with the artwork; you can visually see the main character Cece lose her hearing after a bout of meningitis as the speech bubbles fade and finally are empty. My grandma also lost her hearing after an illness as a child so I have a strong personal connection to this story causing me to love it even more. Cece gets a hearing aide, but the author teaches readers a great deal about life with hearing aides. She illustrates how Cece can hear, but that it sounds like gibberish regardless of volume. In one scene, Cece thinks a child tells her that her grandma likes pie when actually she has said her grandma might die. It’s through responding incorrectly that she determines what the child actually told her. The author also takes time to show social difficulties experienced by being a deaf kid and not being understood. The fact that all the characters are rabbits, highlights how different Cece felt with her hearing aide because it’s much more visible if your ears are above your head. The book also illustrates the many ways that the hearing can communicate with deaf/hard of hearing people in ways that are hurtful. This would be great bibliotherapy for deaf kids and those who are friends with someone who is deaf. I also think it’s a great way for kids to become more aware of the world around them and different cultures, even if they don’t personally know anyone who is deaf. Finally, this book shows both sides of the signing vs. reading lips debate and really helps illustrates the pros/cons. It was only after finishing this book that I realized the author’s name was Cece and that this graphic novel was autobiographical. My love for this book increased astronomically when I found this out. I can’t begin to imagine the impact Cece Bell has had on so many individuals!
YoungMensanBookParade More than 1 year ago
El Deafo is a book about a girl named Cece who is deaf. She is trying to find friends, but she doesn’t believe in herself and she is having a hard time making friends. When Cece is in kindergarten, she goes to a school for deaf children. She figures out that she is not the only one who is deaf. The book is called El Deafo, because Cece imagines herself to be a superhero with super hearing powers. I would recommend this book to kids ages 7-10. I liked the plot of the book better than most other graphic novels, but the art was just okay. Review by Moses A, age 7, Atlanta Youth Mensa
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good!!!!!!!!!! 1 1 U (---------)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Both my 10yr old and 7yr old loved this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Xinfinity is good