El Deafo, by Cece Bell, or why assuming that an 11-year-old boy wants only "books for 11 year old boys" is kind of pointless

I have an 11-year-old son who is fan of fantasy--a Ranger's Apprentice, Percy Jackson, kind of reader.  Which is just fine--it means that a lot of the middle grade fantasy books I get end up in his room, a help viz shelf space.   So what is his favorite book so far this year? A graphic novel about a rabbit girl who is quite a bit younger than him, and deaf, that isn't fantasy at all except for the rabbit ears.

I had been reading El Deafo, by Cece Bell (Harry N. Abrams, Sept. 2014), for my own reading pleasure, which was considerable--it is a deeply absorbingly warm and relatable book for anyone who has felt different and wanted friends.   And the story of how little rabbit child Cece coped with being especially different after losing her hearing, and how she found her way in the world of school and friends is great and the narrative voice is just right as is the pacing etc etc.  In short, I liked it lots.

And there it was on the sofa (cunningly left there as child book bait), and my son saw it, and picked it up, assuming it's fantasy (flying rabbit girl on the cover) and read the back, criticizing apparent redundancy in the summary: "This funny....memoir about growing up hearing impaired is also an unforgettable book about growing up" and then commented on the weirdness of the rabbit children....but then he started to read.

There are few things that I love to see more than one of my children reading a book they love.  This particular child sits up straighter when he's loving a book, holding it gently but firmly with both hands--you can just see Active Engagement pouring out of him.   Emotions flicker across his face.  He no longer hears external sounds.  He is Reading.

So he finished in a single sitting.  "We are keeping this one," he said. "I love it."

"It is a library book," I said.

[deep dismay]

"But we can buy our own copy."


So yeah, don't assume 11 year old boys won't read books about little rabbit girls; 6th grade boys worry about friendships too, and being different, and growing up. And 11-year-old boys can be full as all get out with empathy for kids who aren't like them--look at the success of Wonder.   And in these things they are just like rabbit girls, deaf or not.


  1. Amen! A good book's a good book, and it's frustrating that we are needlessly socializing kids (boys, especially) out of reading books about anything other than boys. HMPH.

    Anyway, I have heard amazing things about El Deafo and will definitely be seeking it out myself.

  2. Blogger just ate up my comment.

    I keep reading wonderful things about El Deafo, so I asked my library to buy a copy. I can't wait to read it and will be sure to share it with my own 11-year-old son.

    1. (sometimes blogger eats my own comments here, which seems just Mean...)

      I hope your boy likes it as much as mine!

  3. I love leaving "child book bait" too, I just don't always get the nibble. I'll have to give this one a try though.

  4. I love your sneakiness with the child book bait, too, Charlotte! Thanks for this reminder.

  5. Everything about this little story is adorable. The bit about not responding to sounds especially made me smile.

    Also, Mattie = Adorable, so any story featuring him is going to be A Win anyway.

    I love that Cece wrote about herself - with rabbit ears. Until the blog tours and interviews about reading this book started posting, I hadn't realized she dealt with auditory impairment. She sounds kind of amazing as a person. I'm glad she exists.

  6. Yes, indeed, boys will read all sorts of books as long as they're good!


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