El Deafo is a memoir — a story taken from the author’s own life. Cece Bell loses her hearing when she’s four years old. She’s fitted with a hearing aid, but even simple conversations are difficult. One day, for example, Cece’s best friend offers her something to drink. Does she want a goat? Shoes? Or Jerry’s mop? (She chooses the goat.) Her friend is actually trying to offer her coke, juice, or cherry pop.
When Cece starts school, she’s in a class with other deaf kids. She has friends, likes her school, and is making progress with lip reading. Then her family moves to a small town, and everything changes. She’s the only deaf kid in her new school and in her neighborhood. It’s pretty lonely — until Cece discovers that her giant hearing aid gives her a superpower.
The author tells her story using the graphic novel format — and she chooses to draw herself and the other characters as rabbits with long ears.
Genre: graphic novel, memoir
Anna’s take on it:
With this title, I like to emphasize that this is one person’s experience growing up deaf. It’s a good chance to introduce the word memoir.
When I tell the part about Cece’s friend offering a goat, shoes, or Jerry’s mop to drink, I ask the kids what they would choose. Some make a face and say they wouldn’t be thirsty anymore, others want to try all three. After I reveal that Jerry’s mop is really cherry pop, I let them try to guess the other two drinks. I see kids trying out the word pairs and noticing how their lips make very similar shapes with each one.