I loved reading El Deafo to my daughter. With El Deafo, Cece Bell proves she can broaden and deepen her reader’s lives with a fun and beautifully-told story. Bell makes the experience of being deaf and separated from others, a handicap shared by many, accessible to children and, at least in my case, adults. The result is moving, a powerfully-told story that merits reading by kids young and old.
In the year before she starts kindergarten, Cece becomes ill with a dangerous sickness that hospitalizes her and damages her hearing. Nearly deaf, her parents outfit her with a device to help her hear her teachers. Clunky and awkward, the hearing device makes Cece feel self-conscious and different. However, as she soon learns, it also grants her secret powers to know what her teacher is doing even when she leaves the classroom. With this secret power, Cece invents an alter ego: El Deafo!
The book is not new in our home but has been floating around our 8-year old’s room for a while. After watching her read El Deafo for the 9th or 10th time (no exaggeration), I knew there was something up. When my 5-year old asked me to read it to her, we spent a few nights one week reading before bedtime, and she loved it, too.
Bell fills El Deafo with anecdotes and experiences that show well what it’s like to be a child growing up with a sense that so many of us take for granted. Whether it is watching the television, trying to understand her teachers’ instructions, or making friends, normal activities take on a new light when seen through Cece’s eyes as she navigates the world in which she lives. Her characters are drawn as rabbits, and the effect is delightful, adding to the child-like innocence that story-Cece shares as she discovers her world and learns how to turn her handicap into a gift.
I loved El Deafo and was genuinely touched as I read it with our 5-year old. I recommend it to parents of kids from 5 to 12, though I think even older children would enjoy the story and gain from Cece’s experiences.
Apropos: El Deafo won the 2015 Newberry Honor and, fun fact, Cece Bell is married to Tom Angleberger, who writes the Origami Yoda books, another favorite in our home.