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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Book Review: El Deafo by Cece Bell

I loved this book! It was so sweet, so honest, so true.

Almost everyone can identify with feeling different, weird, judged, left out, even if very few of us can identify with Cece's actual issue (after a sudden childhood illness, she was left profoundly deaf and at school she had to wear this large square box on her chest to be able to hear the teacher.) Ms. Bell has recreated her childhood with rabbits (which is an ironic animal to choose, considering their large ears and her deafness) in a very accessible and identifiable way in this graphic memoir.

Cece first goes to a school where everyone in her class is hearing impaired, which is great. Then her family moves and she attends the local school. While she has a couple of older sisters, they're a lot older so they're not very helpful. The neighborhood kids luckily like her so that does help. And soon she's able to wear hearing aids that are nearly invisible so those kids often don't even know that she has any hearing issues. But at school that hearing aid won't cut it and she needs to wear this large, obvious, intrusive box while her teachers each wear a microphone. (One of the more hilarious details involves teachers who forget to take it off or turn it off while complaining in the teacher's lounge or going to the bathroom.) Some kids treat her weird, which is not great. And to counteract that, in her mind, Cece comes up with a secret superhero identity as "El Deafo." But other kids don't and she does make a great friend. But then that great friend suddenly doesn't want to be friends anymore, which feels just awful for Cece.

This is an excellent book about differences, about resilience, and about fitting in. It should be required reading in all middle schools. The graphic format means it's understandable by a wider range of kids, even including kids who might struggle with reading. The Cece in the book feels very real and is easy to identify with even though her specific problem isn't. But kids will see themselves, or a classmate, in this story easily, and hopefully it will build empathy and understanding.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I bought this book at Target to give as a gift to my niece.

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