Goodreads: El Deafo
Cece worries how the kids at her new school will react to her hearing aid. Will she be able to make any friends at all? But then she discovers that, with the Phonic Ear, she can hear her teacher anywhere in the school–even the bathroom! Does this mean she has superpowers?
I definitely thought this book was about an actual superhero before I started reading it, but it quickly became clear that it’s a semi-autobiographical account of author Cece Bell’s experiences growing up deaf. Humorous and touching by turns, it explores her struggles wanting to fit in at school, crushing on the new kid when she worries he’ll think she’s weird, and trying to find a friend she feels comfortable with. Growing up is hard, but the great superhero El Deafo will make it through!
The story begins when young Cece (depicted as a rabbit) sustains hearing loss when she contracts meningitis around the age of four. She then has to learn how to communicate, relying on lip reading and a hearing aid, though even then communication is more difficult than one might expect. Cece has to be looking at someone to read their lips, a lot of the syllables look similar, and when people talk to her with exaggerated facial expressions and sounds, it just makes things worse. Television is difficult because characters or narrators speak off-screen or with their backs to the camera. And cartoons? Forget about it. Also, Cece wishes people would stop turning up the volume. It doesn’t help.
All of this combines to make Cece very shy about making friends. She worries they think she’s weird and she gets annoyed when they play music she can’t hear or forget she reads lips and turn off the lights at sleepovers. She doesn’t want to be different and the huge Phonic Ear she wears to hear the teacher at school just makes her stick out even more. School is tough for most kids, but, for Cece, it seems even worse. Her mother thinks she’s special, but mothers say that sort of thing.
Still, Cece is irrepressible and her imagination and love of fun always shine through. Maybe she feels like she’s making up things as she goes along, trying to find a way the other kids will accept her, but she is strong and smart and funny–and more fearless than she knows. And her story is sure to make you fall in love with her.