Sunday, March 26, 2017
2015 Honor - El Deafo
I loved this book!
I wanted to get some more contemporary Newbery books in my collection, rather than flip through the old classics always present at the thrift store. I did some research online and came up with a few books to order, this being one of them.
El Deafo, by Cece Bell, is an autobiographical graphic novel of her life from age 4 until about 18. The illustrations are very very fun. Everyone is a sort of animal, my best guess is rabbit. That makes it less about who is pretty, who is not, what ethnicity are they and what does that mean, etc. It's all about, what are they like? What is their personality and way of interacting with their friends? And it's all about the people. No swirling background scenes to distract from the interactions and from the inner life of Cece, the main character and star.
At 4 years old, little Cece was stricken by a severe case of meningitis, which left her without most of her hearing. A hearing aid helped. And that was good. Except that you can imagine what it was like starting school with a bulky device strapped to your body and wires in your ears. What do these kids think about you? Are they staring at you? Are they making fun of you? Cece shares her thoughts, fantasies (which can be very funny, and will also strike a chord if you can remember your childhood fantasies) accomplishments and regrets as she goes along with her life.
And then, when she realizes her superpower, well, that is very empowering. Could the teachers have guessed that having a microphone around their necks so as to communicate clearly with their hearing-impaired student would enable said student to hear what they were doing throughout the school grounds?
I found her relationships with her different "best friends" to be somewhat hilarious. You can think back on different school friends you have had, and name some that match up to these girls! And I totally get the eye-hearts when Cece is thinking about her crush.
I remember being like Cece, who found it difficult to say out loud what what she really thought about things. Watching her grow in the ability to assert herself was rewarding.
Honestly, if you have a kid who is about 4th grade, or a little below, or a little above, get them this book! Or if you are like me, and just have that appreciation for middle-school level literature, get it anyway. And then share it with the kids you know.