El Deafo ISBN: 9781419712173
Published by Harry N. Abrams, 2014
This is an amazing book! A brilliant graphic novel full of colour, it is the autobiography of Cece Bell, the author, and what an adventure her growing up has been. We learn all about her normal childhood up to the age of four when she develops meningitis and has to be rushed to hospital. There is lots of detail about the time she is there, but she begins to realise that all is not well. Why are the other children getting ice cream when she isn't? And why is everything so quiet? It is only when she gets home that she and her family know that she has become deaf due to her illness. We then see the family attending a clinic where she is diagnosed - lots of detail about that too. She gets a hearing aid, which helps, but she sometimes doesn't hear things quite right, which can result in garbled messages. Ultimately, she goes to kindergarten at a special school where all the other children are like her and she learns lots about lip reading. However, when the family moves from a large city to a small town, Cece is faced with going to an ordinary primary school, and this becomes a challenge. Very helpfully, she is given a 'phonic ear' which has a microphone for teachers to use, and this is a remarkable help to her in lessons. It takes awhile for her to make friends, though, and some of them take advantage of her situation to be bossy and difficult. She has to learn to fend for herself, and one of the best ways she finds for doing so is by becoming El Deafo. This is her own idea, and she thinks of it when she realises that her new phonic ear means that she can hear her teacher wherever she is in the building - the staffroom or the office, or even the toilet! She thinks this gives her superpowers, and so El Deafo comes into being. The other children don't know that she thinks of herself as El Deafo, but when she admits that she can hear the teacher through her hearing aid, she becomes something of a hero to the class, and this helps in her adjustment. The amount of detail in the story is quite amazing - lots about how Cece feels about everything that happens around her. The book is American and there is quite a lot of idiom that will be interesting and different to British kids, but nothing that makes it difficult to understand. I don't quite know why all the people in the story have rabbit ears that stick up straight, but I assume it is to emphasize the importance of ears to the story. It also adds to the humour in the book, which while beautifully matched with the serious side, adds lots to the story. This is a book that everyone will enjoy and which will help hearing children understand why and how kids with a hearing disability are just like everyone else. Get it, read it - enjoy!