Monday, October 26, 2015

Book Review: El Deafo

Our selection for the October meeting of my Young-at-Heart book club was Cece Bell's graphic memoir, El Deafo. This book was very reminiscent of Raina Telgemeier's graphic memoir, Smile. Both authors have overcome the challenge of circumstances that altered their sense of self. Both authors provide an interesting story line with full-color, whimsical illustrations. In Bell's book, the main character is portrayed by an endearing rabbit.

At the tender age of four, Cece Bell grows sick and suffers significant hearing loss. Her parents advocate for her and she is fitted with a phonic ear. She has to wear the device, strapped to her chest, and with wires sprouting from her ears, in front of all her classmates. Cece suffers the typical childhood fears and anxieties concerning her differences, but she also discovers the phonic ear provides her with a bit of a superpower (she is able to hear the teacher even when the teacher has stepped out of the room and might be in the teacher's lounge or the restroom). Through it all, she learns to embrace her differences and find friendships that can stand the test of time.

The particular book I received from interlibrary loan revealed a shelf designation as Junior Graphic Comics. Thus, the book would probably appeal to younger kids than the teen set. However, any individual who has struggled with an outwardly different appearance will be able to relate to this book. I'm not sure how much discussion we'll actually pull from this, since it doesn't exactly lend itself to discussion questions, but it was an interesting selection and a very easy read.

Side note: Amazon lists it as the Number One Bestseller in Children's Physical Disabilities Books and proclaims it a 2015 Newbery Honor Book. Also of interest: Cece Bell is the wife of the author of the Origami Yoda series, Tom Angleberger.

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