El Deafo

El DeafoEl Deafo
Written and Illustrated by: Cece Bell
Publisher: Amulet Books
Format: Softcover, 6 x 9, 248 pages, Full Color, $10.95
ISBN: 978-1-41971-217-3


One of the best young adult graphic novels of the year I am comfortable telling you right away that El Deafo is going to be (or should be) seriously considered – deservedly! – for some awards. Or at least it should be!

Clever and endearing, young adult readers meet their adorable main character right before she becomes tragically ill with meningitis. After spending what seems like an eternity for a little kid, and especially one who can't quite figure out why the hospital and everyone in it is so seemingly quiet, Cece gets released. After visiting an audiologist she is told she must now wear a hearing aide. Her hearing aide, however, doesn't quite help. It's all very confusing to Cece. She can hear . . . sort of. There is a little glimmer of hope, however, when she starts to attend a new school with an amazing teacher who teaches her to read lips and pay attention to context clues in order to better understand the blurry words she can barely make out with her new hearing aide.

Then things become confusing once again and slightly scary, but only for a moment, the moment right before Cece realizes she is one-of-a-kind superhero. Her family has moved to a small town and she is mainstreamed into a whole new school setting. But with this new and nervous situation beginning to scare her Cece gets a new hearing aide, the Phonic Ear. At first she desperately wants to hide her Phonic Ear. What will her new schoolmates think?  

The Phonic Ear is not something Cece wants to hide for long. She soon realizes that the Phonic Ear gives her a super hearing ability. She hears everything: even her teacher's private conversations and, laugh-out-loud-funny, frequent bathroom visits.

Empowering and educational this young adult reader is destined to be a hit with young adults and their educators.

Elements of Story

Plot: Cece contracts meningitis. As a result, she looses her ability to hear and is now deaf. Embarrassed of her new hearing aide things seem pretty glum and like she is stuck in a bubble. Things turn around, however, when Cece gets another hearing aide, a seemingly super-powered hearing aide, that gives her what she feels are superhero hearing powers.

Characters: Cece, mom and dad, brother and sister, nurses, doctors, audiologists, school friends, Emma, Wendy, Dorn, deaf schoolmates, mainstreamed schoolmates, Mrs. Lufton, Laura, new friends and school

Settings: Cece's home, hospital, audiologist offices, school for the deaf, mainstreamed school, Cece's new house and neighborhood

Themes: Identity, Friendship, Change, Family, Abilities and Disabilities, Heroism

Recommended Common Core Standards for Young Adult Readers

Craft and Structure
6. Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

Lesson Plan:

Directions: This young adult graphic novel is jam-packed with personality and that personality (or point of view) is most evident in some key moments regarding the story's craft and structure. For that reason, it is imperative that students be able to identify which key words and which key images demonstrate Cece's point(s) of view.  

In the following activity ask students to identify the most important five key words and five key images that best reflect how the craft and structure demonstrate Cece's point(s) of view throughout the story (both with words and with images).

In the image section it is important to stress that students actually draw the images themselves, for the craft and structure of a graphic novel is equally weighted between words and images.


Key Word(s)

Key Image(s)



















































Dr. Katie Monnin is an Associate Professor of Literacy at the University of North Florida. Besides the joy that comes with reading comic books and graphic novels, Dr. Monnin enjoys a Peter Pan-ish life of researching and writing her own books about teaching comics, graphic novels, and cartoons: Teaching Graphic Novels (2010), Teaching Early Reader Comics and Graphic Novels (2011), Using Content-Area Graphic Texts for Learning (2012), Teaching Reading Comprehension with Graphic Texts (2013), and Get Animated! Teaching 21st Century Early Reader and Young Adult Cartoons in Language Arts (2013); Teaching New Literacies in Elementary Language Arts (in press, 2014). When she is not writing (or sitting around wondering how she ended up making an awesome career out of studying comics and graphic novels), Dr. Monnin spends her time with her two wiener dogs, Sam and Max.