Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

El Deafo

Bell, Cece (Author/Illustrator)
Abrams 2014. 242 pages
First published: 2014
ISBN: 9781419712173 (paperback)
9781419710209 (hardcover)
9781613126219 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Graphic Text
Book genre: Memoir

Text Elements:

characterization, layout, multimodal, panel arrangement

Awards

Newbery Honor Book – 2015
Eisner Award – 2015

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Cece struggles with being different. Deaf since she was four, she is eventually given a hearing aid device – a Phonic Ear – which is bulky and must be strapped to her chest. Not conducive to making teenage friends. She re-frames her difficulties and sense of isolation into a superhero narrative with herself as “El Deafo,” the star of her own story.

The anthropomorphic rabbit characters in this graphic novel are depicted with a great deal of affection and understanding. Through a retro colour palette and pop culture references, we are immersed in Cece’s world growing up in the ’80s. The use of image is highly moving when conveying that the protagonist can’t hear, with words that fade out and empty speech bubbles.

The first-person voice dominates this autobiographical text, with captions punctuating the story: “Superheroes might be awesome, but they are also different. And being different feels a lot like being alone.” There are mind-opening transliterations of how lip reading feels: “Doo yoo wan sumding do dring? We haff jerry’s mop.” as well as wonderful superhero tropes in the language: “An evil smile crosses our hero’s face as she hypnotizes Laura, aka Super Bossypants, with the Phonic Ear’s Vicious Feedback Squeal.”

This endearing, accessible and sometimes humorous memoir offers real insight into the world of a hearing-impaired teenager.

  •  Discuss what it means to be different. What makes you different from your peers? Are some differences good or bad? Are your differences advantageous or disadvantageous?
  •  Why did the author choose the graphic novel format to tell her story? What nuance is added through the use of this format? Give specific examples.
  •  Make note of Cece’s different friendships. What are the good and bad aspects of these friendships? Make a diagram of your ideal “sidekick.”
  •  Discuss the significance and importance of Cece’s alter ego, El Deafo. If you had a superhero alter ego, what would it be?
  •  

    This graphic text uses colour, panel arrangements and panel transitions to make meaning, along with text and illustrations. It also features elements of memoir and autobiography, and uses a superhero trope, all of which make it a good model text for student production of graphic memoirs.

  •  

    Discuss Cece as a superhero. What do you notice about her character, her superpower, her sidekick or other elements of superhero stories? How does she compare to other superheroes you know from comics or film?

  •  

    Use the discussion to spark production ideas. Using the production process, create a short graphic memoir.

  •  

    Before reading, explore how to read graphic novels. Activate prior knowledge about being deaf (obstacles, aids, everyday life, etc.).

  •  

    Make a timeline of the important events in Cece’s life. Choose your favourite section of the novel and explain why it is your favourite.

  •  

    Imagine possible sequels to the story (e.g. Deafo’s First JobDeafo’s First LoveDeafo Is Now a MomDeafo Is a Hero). Select one idea and create 3-4 additional story pages. 

  • To construct his/her identity
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Personal Development
  • Smile (R. Telgemeier) (Genre)