In El Deafo, Author and Illustrator Cece Bell delivers a heart warming autobiographical account of her experiences growing up deaf from the age of four as a result of meningitis. I bought this book for my nine-year-old son, Nathan, who, like all kids, can feel lonely and overwhelmed trying to fit in with peers and forge lasting friendships. El Deafo is at times sad and in other moments very funny, but resoundingly honest. 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, finding the friend she’s longed for.
I loved seeing how Nathan found a piece of himself in the main character. Regardless of the fact that he is not hearing impaired, he was able to relate to the human struggle of feeling different. The format of a graphic novel is enticing and accessible for kids. This book serves as an awesome reminder of the unique ways in which each person struggles to belong. Ultimately embracing whatever differences are present can unlock hidden superpowers that will bring us our greatest joy through self-expression in whatever capacity is most natural to our individuality.