El Deafo

El Deafo
Written and Illustrated by CeCe Bell

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 longed for.

Primary Source Pairing:
When reading a graphic novel, visual literacy is in high gear. Students are using the images and the words to visualize the story. Graphic novels are valuable for all types of students. CeCe Bell has created a coming of age story about how we are all unique and different and the challenges we face. Pair El Deafo with an image of the actual Phonic Ear and teacher microphone from Bell’s website.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What can you learn from examining this image?
  • If someone made this today, what would be different?  What would be the same?
  • How does reading a graphic novel differ from reading a novel with no pictures?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Phonic Ear Image: CeCe Bell’s website (photo collage created by JMarek)

For more information on graphic novels and visual literacy, visit the website for the ALA presentation “Graphic Novels, Comics, and the Common Core: Using Graphic Novels Across the Elementary Curriculum.”

Visit CeCe Bell’s website for additional information on her work, her process, and upcoming titles.