By Cece Bell, David Lasky (Colorist)
Grade Levels: 3-5
Memoirs are not only for adult readers; young readers can read memoirs too! This genre is great for young readers to be able to meet, connect, and empathize with various people who may be different from them. El Deafo is a graphic novel memoir by Cece Bell.
Cece Bell, a Virginia-based author and illustrator, has written a number of popular books for elementary and middle grades. Cece Bell began what would become El Deafo as a blog about her experiences navigating the world as a Deaf person. As El Deafo transformed into a larger memoir, Cece thought about how it could serve as a handbook for hearing people to communicate with Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing people in respectful ways. She chose the graphic novel format to tell her story because of speech balloons! Throughout the book, the speech balloons help illustrate what her character can hear and what she cannot hear.
In this graphic novel, we follow Cece, a young rabbit who is hearing impaired, as she attends a new school. While her last school was a Deaf school, here she must grapple with being different and standing out as the other students stare at her Phonic Ear– the powerful hearing aid she keeps around her neck. Cece’s Phonic Ear becomes her superpower! And she names herself “El Deafo, Listener for All!” This positive mindset makes her feel like a superhero, but what Cece really wants is a true friend. Cece’s growth as a character teachers readers about growing up: both the embarrassing moments and moments of triumph that come with it.
This book is recommended for grades 3-5, though younger elementary students can engage in reading it with some adult support. The broken up chunks of words, humorous dialogue, and brightly colored illustrations will encourage elementary readers to continue reading page after page. Not only will this book help young learners build their skills and identity as readers, but it will help young students build their appreciation for and acceptance of difference.