Review and Teaching Guide!: El Deafo by Cece Bell


NF PB 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!


El Deafo
Author: Cece Bell
Published September 2nd, 2014 by Abrams

Publisher Summary: 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 fi nd the friend she’s longed for.

Author: Cece Bell has written and illustrated several books for children, including the Geisel Honor book Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover. She lives in Virginia with her husband, author Tom Angleberger.

My Review: There are times that you read a book and when you are done, you just know that it is a special book. El Deafo is one of those books. As you all know, I am a huge fan of Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby, and one of the reasons I am is because it looks at disabilities in a positive light and shows that a disability is not an end, but just a change. El Deafo is another novel that does this. Although Cece, like Joey in Hurt Go Happy, finds herself deaf at a young age, we see her overcome this blow and turn it into a superpower. But this book is about more than deafness; it is about being a kid, about growing up, about friendship, about ackwardness, about school, about crushes, about family, about life. This book is truth.

Teachers’ Tools For Navigation: There is so much you can do with this graphic novel. Many activities can be found in the teaching guide that I wrote for Abrams. This book is perfect for independent reading, for lit circles  with other graphic novel memoirs, for jigsawing, for read alouds, and for looking deeply into the text.

(Also, and I didn’t want to harp on this because they are both such unique books, but this book will be loved by the readers of Smile. They both look at such an important part of life.)

Discussion Questions: Language Arts:  Cece uses many different kinds of clues to help her lip-read. (pages 30–31) What are the 4 types of clues? How do they help with lip-reading? In what other ways can these clues be helpful?; On page 60, Cece shares an analogy of her friendship with Laura. She feels like a baited fish that is caught on Laura’s hook. What analogies could we make to
describe Cece’s friendship with Ginny? Martha? Emma?; Science: What is meningitis? How can it cause deafness?;  What is an audiologist? What would you have to study to become one?; History/Social Studies: Many deaf and hard of hearing individuals have made history, including Helen Keller, William Ellsworth Hoy, and Juliette Gordon Low. Research these or other deaf or hard of
hearing individuals throughout history and today. How did being deaf affect their lives? What were their accomplishments?

We Flagged: 

**From Cece Bell’s blog**

Read This If You Loved: Smile and Sister by Raina Telgemeier, The Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jimmy Grownley, I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached, Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall readaloudbuttonsmall closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall litcirclesbuttonsmall


14 thoughts on “Review and Teaching Guide!: El Deafo by Cece Bell”

  1. This is definitely one of my favorite graphic novels of the year and will probably end up on my favorite books of the year list. I can’t wait to share it in Children’s Lit next semester! There are so many ways to relate to this story–it’s such a specific, personal story and yet so universal.

    • It will definitely be on my final lists as well. Your Children’s Lit students are going to eat this one up!
      And I agree. Although it is super specific, it also has something that everyone can connect with–growing up.

    • I book talked it to a HoH student as well; however, he had NO interest. He just wants to read Captain Underpants 😉 But one of his friends wanted to read it to understand him more. It was so sweet!

  2. I LOVED this book. Such a pleasant surprise. Can’t wait to see how students respond. Right now my daughter has made off with my copy. I agree this will be on many favourite lists in many categories.

    • Carrie, your daughter has good taste 🙂
      I’m actually having more trouble getting it into students’ hands than, say, Smile because of the bunny factor (which really surprises me!). I have a girl reading it right now who I know will like it, so we can try to get some word of mouth going 🙂

    • Sounds like my Amulet 6! I haven’t read it yet because I let gets get their hands on it first,a nd it hasn’t come back 🙂


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