Author Cece Bell has written a wonderful memoir of her childhood. She uses the graphic novel format to share her memories of what it was like to lose her hearing due to a severe illness before she was even old enough to start school. As she explains, this is based on her own experiences, and is not meant to be a defining example of the lives of others with hearing loss of various degrees. Cece takes experiences and people from her past and uses them to show some of the situations that were difficult, funny, sad, or triumphant. Some events were exactly like what everyone deals with in elementary school such as learning how to make friends, being nervous about starting a new grade or getting a new teacher, and having a first sleepover with friends. Others revolved more specifically around her hearing - people exaggerating what they said and speaking extra slowly, kids assuming that she knew sign language because she had hearing aids, or being referred to as "my deaf friend." Cece's sense of humor helped her cope then and her imagination created a wonderful alter ego, a super hero named "El Deafo," which has now become the title character in this amazing story.
Although we do not have any students in our school who use a Phonic Ear like the one Cece depended on at school, this book is a great way to start a discussion about how one attribute does not define who a person is or what they can do. This is a very popular checkout in our library just because it is a graphic novel, but I think the students who read it are learning about tolerance and understanding (even if they don't realize it).
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