IBBY Review: El Deafo by Cece Bell

El Deafo, by Cece Bell (Amulet Books, 2015) - 2017 IBBY selection of Outstanding Books for Children with Disabilities

I Am Not My Disability: Outstanding Books For and About Young People with Disabilities

Every two years, the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) chooses outstanding books for and about young people with disabilities, and the 2017 list was announced earlier this month. You can read more about it here, and download the pdf.

2017 IBBY Selection of Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities - cover

This biennial selection draws attention to books published around the world that address special needs and situations and which encourage inclusion at every level. Outstanding titles, including the one below, become part of The IBBY Collection of Books for Young People with Disabilities. This one-of-a-kind collection is located in Canada at North York Central Library, part of the Toronto Public Library system.

Children’s librarian Debora Pearson works with the IBBYcollection. Part of her role involves promoting the collection through social media; and she also conducts IBBY collection visits for school classes and youth groups, provides reference support, and assists with the compilation of the biennial list of outstanding titles.

For the past year, Debora has shared a review of one of the books from the 2015 selection with MWD readers each month; and we are delighted to welcome her back now with the first of a new series of reviews focusing on the 2017 list.

From the 2017 IBBY selection of Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities

El Deafo, by Cece Bell (Amulet Books, 2015) - 2017 IBBY selection of Outstanding Books for Children with Disabilities

El Deafo
written and illustrated by Cece Bell
(Amulet Books, Imprint of Abrams Books (US), 2014)
ISBN ISBN 978-1-4197-1217-3

Reviewed by Debora Pearson*

Loosely based on the author’s own childhood, this graphic novel features a main character who goes deaf after she contracts meningitis.

Author Cece Bell uses the graphic novel format, along with some fantastical elements, to full advantage. The human characters who inhabit the world of El Deafo have prominent rabbit ears, underscoring the focus on hearing as well as a lack of hearing and the need to wear hearing aids. Speech balloons are used very effectively. After Cece’s hearing begins to fade as a result of her illness, the words in the speech balloons fade, too. When her hearing loss is at its most extreme, the speech balloons are empty.

With its appealing format, gentle humour and main character, who has to rise above uncomfortable, even mortifying childhood moments, this novel will be of interest to all readers. Children with hearing loss will find Cece a particularly relatable character, especially in her efforts to view herself not as the odd one out but as someone who might be an admirable and heroic figure – El Deafo – thanks to her special, mechanically-amplified hearing.

*Debora Pearson is a children’s librarian at North York Central Library, part of the Toronto Public Library system, where The IBBY Collection of Books for Young People with Disabilities is located. Debora works with Leigh Turina, the lead librarian for this collection, and helps promote the collection through social media. She also conducts IBBY collection visits for school classes and youth groups, provides reference support, and assists with the compilation of the collection’s biennial list of outstanding titles.
This review is © Toronto Public Library, 2017.

More…

Read ‘How “El Deafo” Empowers Kids Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing‘ by Sarah Bayliss (School Library Journal, January 2017)

Read An Introduction to the IBBY Collection for Young People with Disabilities by lead librarian Leigh Turina.

Read MWD’s monthly reviews of books from the Collection.

Visit the Collection’s website to find out more, including how to visit.

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