El Deafo

by Cece Bell

Paperback, 2014

Call number




Harry N. Abrams (2014), Edition: Illustrated, 248 pages


Comic and Graphic Books. Juvenile Fiction. Juvenile Literature. HTML:A 2015 Newbery Honor Book & New York Times bestseller! 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… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member ValerieAndBooks
In spite of being deaf myself, as Cece Bell is, I'm having a hard time finding the right words to write this review. It's not that our life experiences aren't exactly the same -- they weren't but we did indeed have some similar life experiences. It's not because this is a well-thought out and
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well-written graphic memoir (it did, after all, win the Newbery Prize -- no small feat; and my cover version has a "The Kirkus Prize Finalist" medallion on it). Ultimately, trying to figure out what to say here has to do with the fact that Bell ended up not being part of the signing Deaf community even after taking some ASL classes with her mother. I respect her choice and, actually, I have to admit I am a major fail in using ASL with my family members to the point where my (hearing) children know very little sign. Like Cece, I am able to speak and read lips. But, I love the Deaf community when I'm with them -- they have been a part of me since my childhood --I still feel very much a part of it and have no problems holding back with ASL with my Deaf friends. Cece Bell never really did feel part of the Deaf community, however; a lot of it had to do with being mainstreamed. She does acknowledge this language issue in El Deafo -- especially at the end, in her "A Note from the Author", and I must emphasize that she makes it clear there is nothing wrong with Deaf culture itself, or being part of it. It is just something that didn't happen for her.

Another thing Bell states in her conclusion is that "I am an expert on no one's deafness but my own". I frequently say something like this, to people who ask me what it's like to be deaf.

But, yeah, I would recommend this book to both hearing and deaf alike. Those who are strongly affiliated with ASL (especially those who are militaristic about using it) may be disappointed with Cece's choice of communicating, but they probably can identify with some aspects such as feeling different, having to endure teasing, and so forth. It's written for younger readers/Young Adults, and my 14-year-old did enjoy reading this memoir as well.
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LibraryThing member abergsman
There are a lot of absolutely wonderful middle-grade graphic novels out there, and El Deafo is no exception. This one is stellar.

First, let me be completely honest. I never read comic books or graphic novels as a kid. Up until a few years ago, I had never even picked one up.

However, I married a guy
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who loves graphic novels. Slowly, but surely, because I will read almost anything if it sits in front of me long enough, I gave them a try, starting with V is for Vendetta. And then the Sandman series.

So, when my daughter first started expressing an interest in graphic novels a year or so ago, I began to pick up the middle-grade ones. And that is how I came to read El Deafo, after seeing it on a library reading list. I studied Sign Language during undergrad, and visited Gallaudet University, one of the only university's in the world designed to be barrier-free for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. One thing that I learned is that there are lots of different ways to be deaf. In the author's note at the end of El Deafo, Cece writes about the differences in deafness, and about Deaf Culture, where sign language is the main way to communicate and deafness is seen as something that shouldn't be attempted to be "fixed" with cochlear implants and other devices.

Cece Bell makes it quite clear in her Author's Note that her experience as portrayed in her book is her experience alone, and shouldn't be viewed as "right or wrong" from anyone else's experience or perspective. I actually loved her Author's Note almost as much as the whole story, and it is definitely not something you should skip over at the end when reading El Deafo.

In this semi-autobiographical graphic novel, we are introduced to the story of a young rabbit named Cece who loses her hearing after a serious illness at a young age. It is the story of a girl - rabbit - growing up with a serious hearing impairment: how she felt, and how she handled the insecurities she felt when people treated her differently.

I loved how so much of the story is a humourous take on her personal journey through early childhood - particularly the elementary school years. First, she attends a school for deaf children, which is where she learns to lipread. However, her family soon moves to a new town and she has to leave the school that she loves. At her new school, Cece uses what is called a Phonic Ear, a bulky device that helps her hear the teacher. Cece creates a superhero alter-ego, El Deafo, to help cope with the trials that come along with adjusting to a new school and trying to make new friends while also getting used to the Phonic Ear. We get to see Cece's innermost thoughts and daydreams as she interacts with her family, friends, and teachers. The illustrations are thoroughly appealing and incredibly cute, I really love that Cece choose rabbits instead of people for this book.

In El Deafo, we get to spend six years with Cece Bell. I wish it was more! Cece the rabbit is resilient, heart-warming, and incredibly funny. El Deafo, which is both written and illustrated by Cece Bell, is a beautiful gift for children and adults alike.
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LibraryThing member LibroLindsay
Almost flawlessly wonderful, except I have a bit of the problem with the end. Mike Miller supposedly is a nice guy and does some nice-guy things, and I'm glad she finally feels acceptance from her peers, but it seems more like they only are paying attention to Cece in order to exploit the use of
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her Phonic Ear. Thoughts?
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LibraryThing member ana.j.diaz.1
Fantastic book and story to the children carrying acerca of reflection as to help other children in a similar situation
LibraryThing member johnstod
This a memoir of Cece Bell's early life. She contracted meningitis at age four. She went from the hearing to wearing a rather large hearing aid. This graphic novel is full of very poignant humorous events. She discovers that her teachers often would forget to return the microphone to her and she
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the had the superpower to hear them anywhere, including the bathroom.Cece Bell tells her story in the medium that has been her career passion, the graphic novel.
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LibraryThing member lrubin75
Humorous and emotional story of a hearing impaired girl's experiences growing up in a mainstream school. Themes of loneliness, isolation, frustration. She uses her hearing aid as a superpower to hear the secret, private details of her teacher... and when she finds allies, she reveals to them that
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she has this superpower, and calls herself secretly "El Deafo" a superhero.
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LibraryThing member pussreboots
El Deafo by Cece Bell is a memoir told in graphic novel format. The book is about her early childhood and time in elementary school. Bell uses adorable rabbits to tell her tale of being the only deaf kid in school and in the neighborhood.

When Cece was a toddler she contracted meningitis and lost
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her hearing in the process — her first clue to the fact being that no one asked her if she wanted ice cream, even though her roommate was always given some.

Rather than making her memoir one of tragic loss, she recounts her childhood through elementary school as the backstory for a superhero — El Deafo — with super hearing abilities. Because Cece draws herself (and everyone else) as a rabbit, her ears are big enough to highlight the various hearing aids she's given to use.

The best hearing aid, both for being able to hear the teacher in class, and for her super hero abilities, is the Phonic Ear. It's a microphone transmitter that sends to the receiver she wears. If the teacher forgets to take it off, then Cece can hear everything the teacher does (like take breaks in the teachers' lounge, eating, or even using the toilet)!

Young Cece, above all, wanted to be accepted by her classmates on her own terms. That journey involved learning how to lip read (and realizing all the frustrating situations where lip reading doesn't work), and enjoying TV in the days before closed captioning was commonplace, and annoying people who want to use her deafness to boost their own feelings of self worth.

Anyway, I could go on for hours about how much my daughter and I love this book. She and I literally had a few tugs-of-war over the book to see who would get to it next. Likewise, every person I've shown the book has enjoyed reading it. It's just one of those universal coming of age stories that is relatable to everyone through its use of humor.
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LibraryThing member Madison94
I loved this book. I am obsessed with it. I love how it the book is from the point of view from a four year old that grows up and is in the third grade by the time the book ends. It had me understand how someone who becomes deaf really feels. The illustrations also helped because it showed what the
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hearing aid looked like but in a childish drawing. It was relatable and easy to understand. It gave me insights to how the hearing aid evolved and how the other students seemed to perceive the student. For example, in the beginning when Cece started school the students spoke to her differently since they noticed she has a hearing aid so they in a way thought less of her. At least that is how the author makes us feel she felt. As she grew up the students started accepting her hearing aid as a normal thing and realized that even though she is deaf and has a hearing aid it does not mean they had to treat her differently. The overall meaning of the book was to have to have people realize that those with a hearing loss do not have to be treated differently which can also have another meaning, equality. Treat people equal, if someone is having trouble hearing or another problem they will tell you
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LibraryThing member paula-childrenslib
The author recounts in graphic novel format her experiences with hearing loss at a young age, including using a bulky hearing aid, learning how to lip read, and determining her "superpower." "Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while
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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"-- from publisher's web site.
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LibraryThing member vharsh1
I enjoyed reading this graphic novel very much. This book is about a little girl, Cece, who becomes deaf after having meningitis. She starts off attending a mainstream school but feels that she does not fit in because of her “phonic ear”. On the other hand, she also feels empowered that she can
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hear the slightest noise that others can’t. I loved this book for the main character, Cece. The author had created this book to explain her own experiences growing up with Cece representing her. Cece is a funny, corky little girl who just wants to be herself. I think the author did a wonderful job developing the main character. Another reason why I enjoyed this book was the illustrations. The illustrations involved many different bright colors supplemented with large text. The book was had a fun, comic style that was pleasant to read. The main idea of this story is to turn something that could be seen as a “disability” into a stronger ability, or in Cece’s case, a super power!
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LibraryThing member KatiePU
Cece Bell is a cute little girl who loves singing, playing and her swim suit. She lives in a normal town with her older brother and sister. It's just a normal day, but suddenly Cece is rushed to the hospital. It turns out she has meningitis, and, although she get better, she becomes deaf. After
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Cece comes out of the hospital she has to adjust to life with wires and people who think she is “special.” Can Cece make it through? Or will she be alone forever. I extremely like this book. I like it because it deals with something people often don't think about but can happen a lot. I think kids who want a quick read, but want the read to be meaningful will love this book.
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LibraryThing member craig22
I liked this book so much that I read it 2 times in a row, in two days. I got this book from my good friend Tyler - he thought I would like it and boy was he right!
This book is about a who is deaf and then needs glass. She pretends to be a superhero because of the microphone on her teacher. She can
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hear the teacher anywhere in the building. She uses it to find out about all the other kids in her class and also tell the kids when the teacher is coming back into the quiet math time class. I enjoyed this book because I thought it was interesting how hearing aids changed her life. I recommend this book to people who like picture books that are full of surprises. Unlike a typical picture book it has many stages to the plot. Enjoy! Thanks Tyler for the recommendation.
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LibraryThing member MaowangVater
Cartoonist and author Cece Bell draws her memories of childhood starting at age four, when after being struck with meningitis she became severely to profoundly deaf. The change to a silent world was quite an adjustment to make. Even after being given a hearing aid, which allows her to hear, but
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everyone seems to be speaking as if they are underwater. When her friend offers her a drink, instead of hearing “Cherry pop, juice or a Coke,” Cece hears her choices as “Jerry’s mop, shoes or a goat.” Her friend is surprised when she responds, “I’ll have the goat.” At a special school for the deaf she leans how to compensate for the aural distortion by reading lips and looking for other visual clues. But this still makes watching TV difficult when someone is speaking off camera, and songs on the radio are just not worth the trouble.

More than that, it’s hard to make friends. When she returns to her neighborhood school with students without a hearing impairment, she has to wear a bulky Phonic Ear hearing aid, and she feels it makes her stand out. The Phonic Ear does come with a microphone that her teacher wears around her neck. Cece can hear her clearly and without distortion. Then she discovers that she has a secret superpower that the other kids don’t have. She can hear what the teacher is saying and doing and what’s going on wherever the teacher goes, even in the teacher’s lounge, even in the bathroom! So when the teacher leaves the room she puts on her superpower and becomes, "El Deafo, Listener for All," the sonar listening post that can warn her classmates of the teacher’s return!
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LibraryThing member AMQS
Graphic novels are such a huge part of children's literature, and among the most popular books circulated, so it's wonderful that there are so many quality offerings. This 2015 Newbery Honor book is the author's own story of growing up with profound hearing loss, while just trying to fit in and be
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like everyone else. CeCe Bell lost her hearing after a bout with meningitis at age 4. This memoir tells her sweet, awkward story of negotiating friends, coping with being different, girlhood crushes, the challenges of lip-reading, the humiliation of being "taught" signs by earnest classmates, and strategies for school success. The simple graphic illustrations are humorous and very clever: when CeCe cannot hear, speech bubbles are empty. With her hearing aids she hears random confusing sounds, but with her Phonic Ear (a huge device not-so-discretely strapped to her chest, with cords connecting her ears to sounds transmitted by the teacher's microphone) she discovers super-powers and re-christens herself "El Deafo!" In fact, her discovery that she can hear her teacher anywhere in school (she can even hear when she's peeing in the bathroom) gives her some measure of cool and an opening to interact with her classmates like any other kid. Great read!
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LibraryThing member kamijake
A graphic novel about a young girl who has to negotiate her world with hearing loss. It's funny, uplifting and touching. This book could easily be used in a 3/4 classroom and teaches kids lessons about acceptance from others and realizing being true to yourself is your real superpower.
LibraryThing member barbarashuler
This was required reading for my graphic novel. I reviewed this book in detail for my lesson.
LibraryThing member laineyh
El Deafo is great read for both young and old students; it provides its readers with a great lesson on overcoming diversity. The story begins with CeCe losing her hearing and wondering why everything around her seems different. One day, she falls ill and is taken to the doctor and must be rushed to
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the hospital for meningitis. Through all this, CeCe loses her hearing and must embark on a journey to accept new disability and find a way to fit in with her peers. The book takes the reader through years of CeCe’s life and looks at the struggles with the unwanted attention that her hearing aid brings her. By the end of the book, CeCe finds friends that accept her for her, not her hearing aid, and has created a new superhero version of herself to give her disability a positive spin. This book is great for classrooms everywhere because it is a graphic novel which means students are going to be instantly drawn to it and the vocabulary is controlled and easy so younger students can enjoy the book as well. Students are able to step inside CeCe’s world and gain perspective as to what it must be like to live with a disability and have your peers look and treat you differently. In the end, students and readers will feel hopeful and wonderful seeing CeCe overcome the obstacles attached to her disability.
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LibraryThing member dorthys
CeCe becomes deaf as a small child and learns to deal with the issues that arise with a good attitude and sense of humor. A great graphic nonfiction that handles the subject with sensitivity and humor. Good read for middle school.
LibraryThing member estep13
Summary: This is a book about a girl named, Cece, who has a hearing aid attached to her ear. It is a large device and is easily noticeable. But that was okay because in her old school everyone was deaf in her class so she feels normal. Now she is going to a new school with new people and not in a
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class of deaf students. She was so worried about being different but not with her phonic ear she is able to hear the teacher. Yes, that is nice but she is able to hear the teacher anywhere inside the school. She feels that she has a true power which gets her name El Deafo. The only problem she has with this is because of this power she is still different from everyone else and still feels lonely. All Cece wants is to find a true friend. Will her powers help her find that one thing she wants most?

Personal Reaction: I could easily read this because it was set up like a comic book so it did not make the book seem as long. I also enjoyed too because i am going into special education and to read a book of a child with a disability and to see the fears and adventures she encounters throughout the story could help me as a teacher one day.

Classroom Extension: Make everyone deaf during a time where the students are learning vocabulary words. Students have a vocab word on their head and have to walk around the room and ask for synonyms, antonyms, rhyming words, definitions, etc... to guess their word.
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LibraryThing member Josh.Hegna
This is not only a captivating graphic novel for older elementary students through high school, it also helps kids understand what it would be like to be hearing impaired
LibraryThing member librarymary09
An unbelievably wonderful book.
LibraryThing member barquist
I was really happy to read this graphic novel. Although it was a longer book, it was a quick read and a beautiful insight into what it is like to be a deaf child in a hearing world. The illustrations, also done by the author, are very fun, and great at keeping the reader really engaged. It is also
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a very informative book into the logistics of the materials and technology that deaf children and people experience. Although the author does not wish to represent the deaf community, I feel there is a common understanding and beauty in her story.
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LibraryThing member Sullywriter
A wonderful graphic memoir--funny, honest, touching, and uplifting.
LibraryThing member emaloney5
Incredible book sharing the true story of Ce Ce Bell overcoming her hearing loss. Great use of humor, illustrations, and voice.
LibraryThing member RuthFinnigan
Graphic novels are growing in popularity, and I think for good reason! I think this is a great moral story for young individuals with special needs or not. It's a quick read for those less confident in contemporary novels.


A Horn Book Fanfare Best Book (Nonfiction — 2014)
Wyoming Indian Paintbrush Award (First runner-up — 2017)
Young Hoosier Book Award (Nominee — Intermediate — 2017)
Kirkus Prize (Finalist — Young Readers' Literature — 2014)
Sequoyah Book Award (Nominee — Intermediate — 2017)
Georgia Children's Book Award (Recommended — Grades 6-8 — 2017)
Great Stone Face Book Award (Nominee — 2016)
Utah Beehive Book Award (Nominee — Children's Fiction — 2016)
Eisner Award (Nominee — 2015)
Buckeye Children's & Teen Book Award (Nominee — Grades 6-8 — 2015)
William Allen White Children's Book Award (Nominee — Grades 3-5 — 2017)
Newbery Medal (Honor Book — 2015)
Bluestem Award (Nominee — 2017)
Nēnē Award (Nominee — 2018)
Oregon Reader's Choice Award (Nominee — 2017)
Blue Hen Book Award (Nominee — 2019)
Kids' Book Choice Awards (Finalist — 2015)
Golden Archer Award (Nominee — Intermediate — 2016)
Charlotte Award (Nominee — Intermediate — 2016)
Black-Eyed Susan Book Award (Nominee — 2016)
Odyssey Award (Winner — Children — 2024)
Volunteer State Book Award (Nominee — Intermediate — 2017)
Cocheco Readers' Award (Nominee — 2016)
Maud Hart Lovelace Award (Nominee — 2017)
Lectio Book Award (Nominee — 2017)
CYBILS Awards (Winner — 2014)
Maine Student Book Award (Winner — 2016)
Charlotte Huck Award (Honor — 2015)
Children's Favorites Awards (Selection — 2015)
Great Reads from Great Places (Virginia — 2015)
Reading Olympics (Elementary — 2024)
Project LIT Book Selection (Middle Grade — 2020)
Chicago Public Library Best of the Best: Kids (Fiction for Older Readers — 2014)


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