Monday, February 2, 2015

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: El Deafo

I heard so much about this book, I couldn’t wait to read it. I enjoy stories where people need to get past obstacles, and I could relate to Cece’s struggles to make friends. Learning more about the difficulties of being deaf in a hearing world really made me think.

Here’s the Amazon description:

Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful—and very awkward—hearing aid.

The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear—sometimes things she shouldn’t—but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her as she is. After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she’s longed for.

El Deafo by Cece Bell, Amulet Books, New York: 2014.

My Take:

The graphic novel format worked so well for this middle grade autobiography. It was effective to have blank speech bubbles to emphasize what Cece couldn’t hear, as well as changes in the text size and content to emphasize what she did hear. But what really drew me in was the story of Cece’s struggle to find her way in the hearing world. I loved the superhero character she created for herself and her imaginings about different ways things would be if she really did have superpowers. This book is funny and emotional and makes you think.

From a writer’s perspective, it was interesting to see how the text and pictures went together to create the story. I loved how the pictures could capture the different settings in Cece’s life, and the emotional expressions.

Opening Line:

“I was a regular little kid.”


“I do the rest of my homework with my new curly pencil, even though it takes a whole lot longer.”

“I can’t believe this! I’m in the fifth grade and I’m bawling in front of everybody!”

“All those warm fuzzies make me feel really good…and the feeling gets me through the whole day.”

Other Info:

Cece Bell is severely deaf, and El Deafo is based on her own childhood (and the secret nickname she gave herself).

She also wrote and illustrated the Geisel Honor book Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover, as well as Itty Bitty, Bee-Wigged, Food Friends, and the Sock Monkey picture books and many others.

She’s married to Tom Angleberger, author of the Origami Yoda books. They live in Virginia, where Cece works in a really cool “barn” next door to their house.

To learn more about how your differences can become your superpowers, check out Matthew Winner’s conversation with Cece Bell on the Let’sGet Busy podcast. Fascinating stuff!

For more, visit Cece Bell's website.

Looking for more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday books? Visit Shannon Messenger’s blog for a list of bloggers reviewing great books today! Shannon is the founder of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and the author of the middle grade series, Keeper of the Lost Cities.


  1. Yay for El Deafo! It just won a Newbery Honor. And -- funny coincidence -- you and I are both featuring it today.

  2. Like Joanne said above. Today is full of coincidences!

    1. Very good coincidences! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Oh, I didn't realize it won a Newberry Honor. How awesome! It soounds good.

  4. How cool that you featured this on the day the Newberry awards were announced! I can't wait to read this. I just got it from the library, but unfortunately, my son hijacked it. :) It sounds amazing!

    1. I really liked it! I hope your son is enjoying it.


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