El Deafo

Listening Library. Jun. 2023. 233p. $45. ISBN 9780593748602.
Gr 3-7–Almost a decade has passed since Bell published El Deafo, her Newbery Honor graphic memoir inspired by growing up “severely to profoundly” deaf since age four as a result of meningitis. Creating a superhero version of herself as El Deafo helped mitigate some of the challenges of being different, especially at school. Already an animated Apple series, the book now goes aural with a full cast adaptation. This utterly superb production also proves to be a transformative lesson in immersive empathy. Through a combination of thoughtful acting and meticulous technical control of volume and clarity, listeners can actually experience an approximation of being hearing-challenged, from garbled language to fading modulation. Sarah Tubert, who gets first billing as “the narrator” (so grateful for a full cast list!), is also deaf and is half of the What the Deaf? podcast duo. Kudos to the sensitive casting powers that be.
VERDICT A must-have acquisition for every library.

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