Welcome to Read this Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that needs to jump onto your TBR pile! This week, I’m recommending a book for Disability Pride Month!
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El Deafo by Cece Bell
When Cece is a little girl, she contracts meningitis, which causes her to lose most of her hearing. The doctor gives her a little box attached to headphones that hangs around her neck. This device helps her hear, especially at school. El Deafo follows Cece through the years as she makes friends, graduates to older grades, and receives various upgrades to her assistive technology.
Bell illustrates her younger self as a bunny, which adds such an adorable quality to her illustrations. This graphic novel is geared towards kids, centering on the anxieties and fear of growing up or standing out. Cece struggles with friendships because most of her friends have no idea how to be friends with a Deaf person. They either talk too slowly, assume she’s unintelligent, or feel overwhelmed with guilt that they aren’t Deaf themselves. Bell handles the ableism that kids can experience from other kids so well. Her characters are complex and messy, just like real kids!
The title, El Deafo, comes from what Cece calls her superhero alter ego, the one who always stands up for herself and speaks out in the face of ableism that she experiences. We see illustrations of Cece as El Deafo, the brave hero who shows up just when Cece needs her most.
I’m always looking for more books about disability for kids, and El Deafo is just the ticket. I love the illustrations and how they portray the complexities of growing up Deaf. Graphic novels are often easier for kids to get into, and by telling her story as a graphic novel, Bell has made her story even more attractive to young readers.
Recently, an audiobook edition of El Deafo was released, and the audiobook uses a cast of narrators to create an engaging audiobook that captures listeners’ attention from the first few minutes. The editing of the audio mimics Cece’s experience struggling to understand what people are saying around her. It makes for an excellent listen for both adults and the kids in their lives.
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That’s it for this week! You can find me over on my substack Winchester Ave, over on Instagram @kdwinchester, or on my podcast Read Appalachia. As always, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. For even MORE bookish content, you can find my articles over on Book Riot.
Happy reading, Friends!