Review Detail

Kids Nonfiction 132
Now With Extra Background Information!
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Learning Value
This graphic novel memoir chronicles the author's experiences with hearing loss. After a childhood bout with meningitis at age 4, Ms. Bell had limited hearing and was taught to lip read. She had a variety of hearing aides, some which worked better than others, and a variety of friends, some of whom had issues with her hearing loss and some of whom just had issues. When things get difficult, Bell occasionally would fantasize that she was the super hero El Deafo, and there are dream sequences about what she wishes she could do. At one point, her mother wants her to take a sign language class, but having relied on lip reading, Bell is not thrilled with this idea. This follows the main character up through middle school, deals with a crush on a cute boy, and is generally a great, realistic picture of how one person went through early school years with a hearing loss.
Good Points
There are very few characters in middle grade books with hearing loss, so the details of what Bell experienced were interesting. I especially appreciated the after note where she said that this was a chronicle of just HER experience, and that there are so many different ways to deal with this. I have one student who is a huge reader has a sign language interpreter; I asked her if she would like the book and explained that while it was about a girl with a hearing loss, she doesn't use sign language. My reader was still thrilled to see the book, and is looking forward to the full color version. This will be popular with readers who like graphic novels, but is an interesting story even without the pictures. The friend and boy drama are squarely middle grade and are as important as Bell's dealings with her issues of being different.

Bell is clearly about my age, given the cultural references, so it might have been helpful to have a year mentioned, so that readers would have an idea that the technology of hearing aids might have changed a bit. My cousin had a device similar to Bell's Sonic Ear, and it was a very large device; even my reader says that before she got an implant, she had a unit that was rather cumbersome. The additional information in the Superpowered edition helps a bit. There are more pictures of Bell as a child, and some pictures of her report cards as well!

The notes on the creative process are interesting; there are preliminary sketches, and notes on how graphic novels are produced. While I knew that lots of books mention "colorists" I hadn't quite grasped that another person created the palette for the book, working closely with Bell, of course. I loved the mix of photos of places and people that came into play in the book and the details of how she works through bringing a story to life from written ideas to a finished and colorized graphic novel. Even if you've read the original 2014 book, it's a treat to pick up this "new and improved" version!
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