El Deafo

El Deafo is a graphic novel written and illustrated by Cece Bell. The book is a loose autobiographical account of Bell's childhood and living with her deafness. However, the characters in the book are all bunnies. Cece Bell, in an interview with the Horn Book Magazine,[2] states "What are bunnies known for? Big ears; excellent hearing," rendering her choice of characters and their deafness ironic.

El Deafo
AuthorCece Bell
IllustratorCece Bell
CountryUnited States
GenreChildren's Literature
Graphic novel
PublisherAmulet Books[1]
Publication date
September 2, 2014
Media typePrint
LC ClassHV2534.B44 A3 2014


The book depicts the childhood of Cece Bell, who required the assistance of a Phonic Ear hearing aid while she was growing up to be the person who she is now.

While the hearing aid enables her to hear the world around her, it also distances her from some children her own age because she is seen as "different". This causes both frustration and depression in Cece, as she is desperate to find a true friend but frequently feels that she has to accept poor treatment from others being afraid of losing what few friends she has. She deals with these feelings by treating her hearing aid as a superpower, as it gives her the ability to hear everything. For example, she hears private teacher conversations, as her teachers wear a tiny microphone that transmits sound to Cece's hearing aid; and not every teacher remembers to turn it off when they leave the classroom. She adopts the secret nickname "El Deafo".

As time passes Cece grows more assertive and opens up to the people around her, especially when she meets a new friend who doesn't seem to care that she wears a hearing aid. She also grows comfortable in confronting people that treat her differently because of her deafness, finding that many of them are largely unaware that their actions cause her emotional harm. Ultimately Cece opens up to her new friend and reveals her secret persona as "El Deafo", much to the delight of her friend, who agrees to serve as her sidekick. As she gets older, she realizes that she no longer has to hide her "superpower" with others.


  • Cece Bell Main character
  • Dorn Cece's Kindergarten Teacher
  • Mrs. Lufton Cece's First Grade Teacher
  • Mrs. Ikelburry Cece's Third Grade Teacher
  • Mrs. Sinklemann Cece's Fifth Grade Teacher
  • Emma Cece's First Best Friend
  • Lauran Cece's Best Friend in First and Second Grade
  • Ginny Cece's New Friend in Third Grade
  • Martha Cece's Best Friend in Fifth Grade
  • Mike Cece's First Crush
  • Mom Cece's Mother
  • Dad Cece's Father
  • Ashley Bell Cece's Older Brother
  • Sarah Bell Cece's Oldest Sister
  • Mr. Potts Cece's Gym Teacher
  • El Deafo Cece's alter-ego


El Deafo won a Newbery Honor in 2015. It also won the 2015 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Kids (ages 8–12). [3].

Critical reception

Katherine Bouton, a writer from the New York Times, calls the book inspirational for those who are different.[4]

See also


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