Notice: All forms on this website are temporarily down for maintenance. You will not be able to complete a form to request information or a resource. We apologize for any inconvenience and will reactivate the forms as soon as possible.

El Deafo


Readability Age Range



Year Published

Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Plot Summary

Cece is only 4 when she contracts meningitis. Hospitalized for several weeks, she eventually recovers from the illness and is allowed to return home. Cece knows something is different but does not understand what until one day she calls for her mother. Cece shouts while she searches the house only to discover her mother was behind her, but Cece could not hear her answer. A doctor confirms that the little girl has lost most of her hearing.

A week later, Cece is given a transmitter with earbuds. It is a hearing aide that will allow her to hear some sounds. She soon discovers that although the hearing aide helps her know when someone is speaking, she has a hard time interpreting what is said, often with funny results, as when she thinks her friend is offering shoes to drink, not juice.

In the fall, Cece goes to a special school with other deaf children. There she learns how to read lips to make it easier to figure out what people are saying to her. Cece loves her new school, teacher and friends. As she gets used to her disability, she explains how the reader can help a deaf person to understand what they are saying. Shouting when you speak does not help, nor do exaggerated gestures. People need to make sure they are looking at the deaf person when they speak and not block sight of their lips.

Cece is sad when school is over for the summer, especially since her family then moves to a new town. Cece must try and make new friends even though most look at her strangely. She also gets a new hearing aide, one with a microphone for her teacher to use. It allows Cece to hear what the teacher is saying with very little feedback or trouble. The new hearing aide works so well, Cece can hear the teacher use the restroom and talk to other teachers in the lounge. She begins to think of her hearing aid as a super power and imagines herself to be “el deafo,” a superhero.

Cece finally makes a new friend, a girl named Laura. Laura does not yell or make fun of Cece, but she is rather pushy. Cece does not know how to stick up for herself. She lets Laura play tricks on her, all the while thinking hard about what el deafo might do to help. Cece is relieved the following school year when she and Laura are assigned to different teachers. A new student joins the class. Ginny is nicer than Laura but talks very slow and loud to Cece, which annoys her. One day, Cece loses her temper and yells at Ginny. Ginny forgives her and even asks Cece to her birthday party sleepover.

Cece is excited to go at first, but the evening becomes a long series of frustrations as the other girls watch television that she cannot hear, and continue talking when the lights are out so she cannot read their lips. Cece claims not to feel well and asks to go home.

Cece continues to struggle to assert herself and fit in with others. She becomes friends with Martha, a younger neighbor. Martha knows about Cece’s hearing aid but does not yell or speak slowly. She is not pushy like Laura. The two become inseparable. But when Cece hurts her eye one day while they are playing, Martha fears she has caused Cece to go blind as well as deaf, and no longer wants to play with her. Cece tries to explain that she is not mad, or seriously wounded, but Martha will not listen.

Cece has problems at school until she gets glasses to help her see distances. She is determined to do well in her classes, but then the gym teacher accidently breaks the special microphone that helps her hear what is said in the classroom. It takes several weeks to get a replacement. Cece struggles to keep up. When her new microphone arrives, everything seems to get better. Cece can hear again. She is selected for a special part in a school presentation and will perform with Mike Miller, the boy she has a crush on. During the performance, Cece giggles because she can hear her teacher using the bathroom.

She eventually admits what happened to Mike, who thinks Cece’s hearing aid is awesome. They play together after school. Mike takes the microphone to test how far away he can go before Cece’s hearing aid will not pick up the sound. On his way back to Cece, he runs into Martha. Cece hears their conversation in which Martha confesses how she thinks Cece must hate her now because of the accident. Cece tries to convince Martha otherwise, to no avail.

The following day at school, Mike asks Cece to listen for the teacher’s return when she leaves the room. The kids are supposed to sit quietly and do their work, but they play instead until Cece informs them of the teacher’s approach. Cece becomes a hero to her fellow students. Eventually, Cece and Martha become friends again, and Cece tells her about her secret identity, el deafo.

Christian Beliefs

Cece’s mother prays for God to heal Cece when she has meningitis.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Cece’s parents are kind and loving. Her mother tries to get Cece to break out of her shell, but she is not mean or pushy about it. Her teachers work with her and use the microphone to help her, until one of them break it.

Profanity & Violence

God’s name is used with the word bless. H— is used, and the word holy is used several times as an expletive, as in holy hearing! Other objectionable words ore poo-poo and pee.

Several of the illustrations in the story depict someone vomiting due to illness. The teacher reads a story in which she describes maggots crawling out of a dead body. Cece runs into a tree branch, which cuts her eye. Several panes of the story show her eye bleeding, but the depictions are not realistic.

Sexual Content

Cece imagines what it would be like to kiss Mike. Her friends talk about a girl who has kissed a boy in their class.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at

Additional Comments

Alcohol: Several illustrations show Cece’s and Ginny’s mothers drinking a glass of wine.

Smoking: Several illustrations show Cece’s and Ginny’s mothers smoking cigarettes.

Rude humor: Cece’s special hearing aid allows her to hear the teacher when she is going to the bathroom. Some students sing rude lyrics to God Bless America.

You can request a review of a title you can’t find at [email protected].

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.