El Deafo

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

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 16 reviews

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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.


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

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

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byUwUgottapoo June 20, 2020

Very inappropriate for young kids

In one part el deco looks down her shirt and spells attic >^< so that’s not good she also is kssing
Adult Written byXin012 July 5, 2019
Teen, 14 years old Written byMochiWolf April 7, 2018

Amazing and educational

This is a really good, educational story for all ages 7 and up. I gave it a high age rating because some characters vomit (one from sickness, the other from ner... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old February 19, 2018

El Deafo is my favorite graphic novel!

I read this eBook recently and it was amazing! All the characters, Cece especially, are hilarious and just fun to read about, as well as great role models for o... Continue reading

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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love graphic novels

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