(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)
Welcome to another installment of Questions From a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with Cece Bell, author and illustrator of (among other things) the graphic novel El Deafo.
Cece Bell already had several picture and chapter books under her belt before El Deafo hit the shelves. Among them: the Sock Monkey series, Itty Bitty, and Rabbit and Robot. But it was El Deafo that made the biggest splash.
El Deafo, in case you’re unaware, is an autobiographical graphic novel that tells the story of how Cece lost her hearing at a very young age (from meningitis), struggled to appear “normal” and fit in throughout elementary school, and ultimately discovered her own superpowered altar ego in the guise of “El Deafo.”
It’s a charming, honest, warm, and funny book that’s a pure delight for all ages. And it certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed. To name a few, it won the 2015 Newbery Honor, was a Kirkus Prize finalist, and was recently nominated for an Eisner Award.
(This interview originally appeared on GeekDad here.)
Every year, the American Library Association breaks out the medals and awards children’s and young adult books with some of the most prestigious awards they have to offer. The big two—and those with which most people are familiar—are the Newbery Medal (for outstanding contribution to children’s literature) and the Caldecott Medal (for most distinguished American picture book for children).
Graphic novels have always had a somewhat … uncomfortable relationship with these awards. Some claim that they shouldn’t be considered alongside more “traditional” children’s books, and some argue that there should be an entirely separate award for graphic novels.
This year, for the first time ever, graphic novels were recognized in a huge way. Cece Bell’s El Deafo received a Newbery Honor, and This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki became the first graphic novel to be awarded a Caldecott Honor. (Click here for my interview with Mariko and Jillian Tamaki.)
Cece Bell’s graphic memoir appeared on many Best of 2014 lists for its charming, honest, and funny portrayal of her experiences and struggles after she loses her hearing (due to meningitis) at a young age.
I had the opportunity to chat with Cece Bell soon after she won the Newbery about the award, setting a precedent, and the lessons she’s learned.