El Deafo

Author and artist: Cece Bell

Type: Fiction, comic, memoir

Published: 2014

I read it: August 2016


Our theme this year at Camp Quest Minnesota was Language and Communication, so our program directors collected books to suit the camp sessions. Our group of counselors was informed that El Deafo was a hit with the campers, so I read a few chapters during some downtime in the staff room, then resumed the book after returning to civilization and getting back into the library routine.

This comic is a slightly fictionalized memoir of the author’s childhood, based around her dealing with deafness starting at about age four. The characters are rendered as approachable rabbits, presumably to draw in the kid readership, but whatever the reason it’s cutely unique. There isn’t as much sign language in the story as you might expect—the plot revolves around Cece’s “Phonic Ear,” which provides her the opportunity to hear clearly while at school. The device also allows her to take on a self-ascribed superhero alias, El Deafo.

Huge chunks of the story are accurate scenes of the emotional rollercoasters of childhood: dealing with new scenarios, making and losing friends, fitting in. As Bell clarifies in her author’s note, she tried to nail the feelings of her own experiences, not to write the ultimate book on deaf culture. It’s a quick, entertaining read about a young person defining herself in the daily world.

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