El Deafo

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
El Deafo Book Poster Image
Charming, funny comics memoir of growing up deaf.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 7 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

El Deafo clearly presents some of the difficulties of growing up deaf. It shows that there are varying degrees of hearing impairment and that children deal with the situation differently. 

Positive Messages

El Deafo emphasizes that, although deafness might cause someone to feel lonely, it shouldn't be an impediment to making strong friendships. The graphic novel can serve as a springboard for discussions about loneliness, fitting in, and finding inner strength.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cece's often confused by social situations, but she has the grace and bravery to persevere and make lasting friendships. The cartoonist doesn't portray herself as perfect but rather as a sensitive person who yearns for strong connections with her peers and sometimes makes mistakes. She knows her deafness makes her different from her friends, but she wants to be taken on her own terms. Her wish to fit in sometimes causes her to stifle her own feelings or misbehave in a mild sort of way.

Violence
Sex

Cece has a crush on a neighbor boy, but she's completely unable to express her feelings about him.

Language

A character states that someone's making her life "hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An adult smokes at a kitchen table, and Cece's mom has a couple glasses of wine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 2015 Newbery Honor Book El Deafo by Cece Bell is a sweet, funny, and affecting graphic memoir of growing up with a hearing impairment. From kindergarten onward, Cece wants a best friend to call her own, but her deafness and feelings of insecurity sometimes get in her way. She has an unrequited crush on a neighbor boy, and the only strong language is a character saying someone's making her life "hell." In two scenes, adults drink wine and smoke cigarettes. 

User Reviews

Adult Written byamanda_bee August 25, 2015
I was very impressed with El Deafo. The novel follows Cece from when she is 4 and becomes deaf after an illness, until she is in the 5th grade. That's a bi... Continue reading
Parent of a 5 and 8 year old Written bysjjess August 27, 2015
I think my expectations were too high for this book. I think it is certainly important to give kids the opportunity to learn about and empathize with the exper... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old January 19, 2015

Graphic Novel that is touching, funny and smart

El Deafo is a smart graphic novel memoir about growing up deaf. Cece, the main character in the book is deaf. She sometimes gets mocked for being deaf, but inst... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old May 13, 2016

Great, but can have bad stuff.

El Deafo is a great book. I like it. But the moms and sister smoke. And Mrs. Lufton said a bad word.

What's the story?

A bout with meningitis at age 4 leaves Cece with impaired hearing. As she goes off to first grade, she wears the Phonic Ear, a giant hearing aid strapped to her chest. Although she can understand some conversations, she still misses a lot of what's being said by those around her. She wants nothing more than to have a best friend, but can the Phonic Ear provide a way to find one?

Is it any good?

Funny, perceptive, and truthful, EL DEAFO expertly captures the experience of wanting to fit in and find a best friend, whether you're deaf or can hear perfectly. Young Cece is a hugely likable main character, alternately feisty and insecure, engrossed in her fantasy life while attuned to the pitfalls of reality. Cartoonist Cece Bell may use anthropomorphic rabbits as stand-ins for her characters, but their humanity shines through on every page.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the ways in which people with hearing impairments are depicted in the media. What books, movies, or TV shows address deafness with sensitivity and truth?

  • Why do you think the author of El Deafo depicts all the characters as rabbits? How would the story change if the human characters were presented realistically?

  • Why is it sometimes difficult to make new friends? What can you do to make the process easier?

Book details

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