Thursday, August 06, 2015

Reader's Diary #1181- Cece Bell: El Deafo

A recent Eisner Award winner for Best Publication for Kids ages 8-12, I can see why despite the fact that at first glance, her illustrations seem quite simplistic. These, as it turns out, are deceiving. Subtle but brilliant artistic touches elevate the medium. Of particular greatness were the ways Bell played with speech balloons and text. Check out this scene showing how Bell as young rabbit, with new hearing loss:

The simple technique of having the text faded ingeniously captures what is going on in a way that even younger readers would grasp. In other scenes text runs outside of speech balloons or speech balloons are left completely blank. Also impressive were the use of Ben-Day dots whenever Bell would imagine herself as a superhero, giving those scenes a retro comic-book vibe.

But, of course, a comic should be a complete package, with storytelling on par with and complementing the illustrations. Thankfully, Bell's writing is equally clever... and funny. Despite the characters as rabbits, El Deafo is Bell’s autobiographical tale of going deaf at age four and learning to deal with being different in her formative years. Bell is not the only one learning to live with hearing aids; her family and friends also adjust their interactions with her. Some are insensitive, some overcompensate, and some just treat her like everyone else. The results are sad, frustrating, and sometimes touching but the simple characterizations and abundance of humor help take the serious edge off.  Children and adults alike, regardless of their hearing abilities, will hardly realize they are getting beautiful lessons in self-acceptance and empathy.

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