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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Superpowers


Don't judge a book by its title. When I first encountered Cece Bell's latest book El Deafo in reviews, I assumed the title meant she had been picked on by others and called a name because she was deaf. It sounded cruel and insensitive, and I wasn't sure I wanted to read it. On the contrary, Elf Deafo is the name she chooses to represent her brave and powerful alter ego, the one who speaks the words she wishes she could say, the one who stands up for herself, the one who makes people truly understand what she wants and needs. El Deafo flies, spies, soars, and utters curses.

Biographical in nature, the story is immediately engaging, and Cece Bell captivated me with her genuine voice: honest, witty, sometimes uncertain, always wondering. Though her frustrations about being deaf certainly play a large part in her story, it was the yearning to find a true friend that spoke most to me. As she sought the best friend for her, she contemplated whether that person was feeling sorry for her or whether she should agree to do something simply to keep a friend or whether anyone would ever accept her for just being Cece. 

The graphic novel format - usually not my favorite - was perfect for this story. Speech and thought bubbles conveyed everything in first-person, allowing the reader to completely enter Cece's heart and mind. When necessary, narration blocks helped tell the story. Her formation of the garbled speech she heard when those around her watched television or listened to music or turned out the lights at a slumber party allowed me to imagine how she struggled to understand when lip-reading was not an option. A novel without pictures would not have been the same.


2 comments:

  1. Here in Maine, 'Lost on a Mountain in Maine" is a classic true story of a 12 year old lost on Katahdin for 9 days back in the 50's. Recently rendered in graphic format. Pretty good..

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  2. I'm going to reserve it from the library. I like the graphic novel format when there are quality illustrations with meaningful stories. Some of them seem like they are full of formula illustrations & gratuitous violence though.

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