(Image from Barnes & Noble)
After a battle with meningitis, 4-year-old Cece Bell loses her hearing. Thrust into a confusing new existence, she must learn how to cope with an overwhelming disability. She's excited to start school, especially when she receives a powerful hearing aid that will help her communicate better with those around her. Unfortunately, the Phonic Ear is such a bulky, visible instrument that it makes Cece feel even more conspicuous. It's tough being different from her family, friends, and classmates. Cece's emotions bounce from anger to sadness to loneliness to embarrassment to triumph when she finally learns to think of her deafness not as a disability, but as a superpower. El Deafo won't let hearing loss stop her from being everything she wants to be. And neither will Cece.
Author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her experiences as a deaf child in El Deafo, a graphic novel based on events that really happened to her. Although it's a thick (and super heavy) book, the story it tells is fast, funny, and compelling. It's very real—achingly so in places—but that's what makes it so impacting. Reading about Cece's trials should help readers empathize with those who are "different" as well as making them realize that everyone feels out of place for some reason or another. El Deafo is entertaining, yes, but it also teaches some important lessons about awareness, acceptance, and turning perceived weaknesses into avowed strengths. Definitely hand this to your middle graders—they'll be better for reading it.
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for brief, mild language (no F-bombs) and cartoon nudity (Cece is depicted in her underwear and without a shirt on -- cartoons are not graphic)
To the FTC, with love: Another library