by Cece Bell
I’m not usually a fan of graphic novels, and I didn’t realize that this book is a graphic novel – well, actually, memoir – until after I bought it and cracked it open, at which time I groaned a little because it’s just not a format that generally appeals to me. However, I couldn’t help but scan the first couple of pages, and I was quickly taken in.
As I said, this is a memoir in graphic novel form, recounting the author’s childhood. Born hearing, when she was four years old Bell contracted meningitis, and as a result lost her hearing. Required to wearing hearing aids, which back then (the mid-1970s) were comprised of ear pieces with cords attached to a device worn on the chest, Cece attends kindergarten in a classroom of other kids like her, all of them hearing impaired. Kindergarten is the last time she attends school with other deaf or hearing impaired kids. Soon her family moves to a new house in a new town, and Cece goes to the neighborhood school with all the other neighborhood kids. Like most kids, what she wants most is to have friends and to fit in, but she always feels different because of her hearing aid. To make matters worse, her small hearing aid is eventually upgraded to the Phonic Ear, a super-duper hearing aid that is even more conspicuous than the smaller one she had gotten used to wearing. With the Phonic Ear, however, she discovers a super power: because it is paired with a microphone worn by the teacher, Cece discovers that she is able to hear the teacher wherever she is in the entire school building! This results in some hilarity, especially when she hears her teacher using the bathroom. Secretly dubbing her alter ego “El Deafo,” Cece wonders if she can harness her super powers to make friends.
I really enjoyed this book! Honest without being sentimental, and told with a great deal of humor, it still reveals the loneliness felt by anyone who has grown up “different.” Spunky Cece is a jewel of a girl.
One of my daughters read it after I did, in one day, and my other kids are lining up to read it. A treat of a book for adults and kids alike.