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A deep dive into Chapter 15 of El Deafo is up!

24 Aug

Ah yes, one of the (many) moments of reckoning of my young life: the breakage of the Phonic Ear’s microphone by my former gym teacher, “Mr. Potts.” (His real name is pretty close.)

As most of you know, there are a lot of good — and even great — teachers. But there are also a few clunkers, too. Mr. Potts was a clunker! For all you teachers out there reading this — especially P.E. teachers — a little bit of kindness goes a long way. Also, I hope that paddles with holes drilled in them have been banned, because those things are just plain wrong.

So yes, in this video, I talk about Mr. Potts “accidentally” breaking my microphone (I use the quotation marks because he didn’t show much remorse afterwards).

You’ll find out more about what it was like to go four to six weeks at school without my microphone (sheer agony!), and you’ll also learn how my mom stepped up to make the wait a little less long. She’s amazing.

And finally, I talk about the dreaded flexed-arm hang, which is one of several events that kids back then (and maybe even now) had to do in their attempts to acquire the coveted Presidential Physical Fitness Award patch.

I only got this patch once in my entire school career, as I am not widely known for my athletic prowess. You’ll find out from reading the book and from watching the video that I did get this award — but not without the stars lining up in such a way to make it possible. Question: is it cheating if you don’t tell your gym teacher that he recorded the results of an event incorrectly, and in your favor?

I hope that after you watch this video, you’ll find yourself a pull-up bar and try to beat my personal best: 64 seconds!!!

Thanks so much for watching. Here’s the video!

Episode 2 of the In-Betweeners is up!

17 Aug

That’s right! A new conversation between amazing author/illustrator Jessixa Bagley and myself is up on YouTube! And we talked for a solid hour, so I’ve made this a 2-parter. Watch Part One now, Part Two later, and then call it a day!

In this episode, called “Invisibility,” we talk about situations that make us feel invisible — a feeling that many share, I am sure. It’s particularly pronounced if you feel like you live between two worlds, and don’t really fit in either.

Apologies in advance: I say a bad word — the dreaded H-E-Double Hockey Sticks — so if you watch this with your kid(s), tell them that I’m sorry and explain that the emotion of the moment got the better of me. Sometimes those words slip through! Also explain to them that I tried hard to edit it out in YouTube studio, but I guess I’m more of a Luddite than I like to admit.

It’s so much fun to talk to Jessixa. As serious as these conversations can be, we sure enjoy making each other laugh. That’s been the best part — finding out that even though we look different and have had different life experiences, we have so much in common, too. Humor is a great uniter.

Here are the videos. Enjoy!

Thanks so much for watching. I’m hoping to get my deep dive into chapter 15 of El Deafo up soon!

Now up: A deep dive into Chapter 14 of El Deafo!

10 Aug

Chapter 14 is the shortest chapter in El Deafo — only 5 pages! Or is it 6? It’s all about the moment I got my glasses. In the video, you’ll see a picture of me with my first pair…and a picture of me with my round pair — the pair that inspired the one and only Mike Miller to tell me that I looked like John Lennon. Fun — but short!

So, because this chapter is so short, I decided that now would be the perfect moment to talk to El Deafo’s colorist, the amazing David Lasky.

David Lasky is a comics genius (you can check out his work here), and the fact that he agreed to color my book still surprises me to this day. His color choices, and the shadows he drew (all by hand, on paper!) added so much extra depth to this book.

David’s own work, especially his graphic novel with Frank M. Young, The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song, is astonishing! Check it out if you can. (His work is also available for sale on Etsy; I myself own this sticker, which now cutely resides on my laptop!)

As you’ll find out, David and I have known each other for 30 years! We go way back, and I’m glad we do.

Here’s the moment when David told me that he USED A MOUSE to color El Deafo. Talk about old school!

And here’s the video. Enjoy!!!

A new deep dive is up: Chapter 13 of El Deafo!

27 Jul

Get yourself a cherry-flavored Hostess Fruit Pie (but only if it feels safe to go out shopping)…and get yourself a box of tissues, too. I get all weepy near the end of this episode, I really do.

For Chapter 13, I discuss who exactly Mrs. Sinklemann (my fifth grade teacher in the book) is based on…and my eyes going all funny on me…and being wrongly accused of cheating…and the relativity of time…and the ingredients in the most delicious processed snack of all time. I also discuss what it’s like to have a mom who is an amazing advocate and friend. It’s a valentine to this amazing woman — the one and only Barbara Broome Bell — in all her glory!

Here it is for your enjoyment. I sure hope you dig it!

And now for something a little different!

20 Jul

We pre-empt our normal schedule of “The Inside Story of El Deafo” to bring you…the In-Betweeners! Here’s an image from our animated introduction:

What is The In-Betweeners? It’s a new (and hopefully monthly) visual podcast starring two new friends: the amazing author/illustrator Jessixa Bagley and myself, Cece Bell.

Jessixa and I recently discovered that we have something in common: we both live our lives “in between” two worlds: for Jessixa, those worlds are the Black and white ones; for Cece, the deaf and hearing ones.

There are a lot of big things and big conversations happening in the world right now, and one of the best things we can be doing is to be asking each other questions — even if we’re afraid to ask them, or even if they’re hard to ask. So this podcast sets out to do exactly that, as Jessixa and Cece ask — and try to answer — questions about each others’ experiences. The answers might surprise you — especially in the ways they overlap.

Please know that our thoughts and opinions are only our own, and based on our own experiences, and no one else’s. We aren’t trying to speak for any entire group, and you might find yourselves agreeing — or disagreeing — with our answers. And that’s OK.

For El Deafo fans, do not despair! The deep dive into El Deafo (we’re now on chapter 13) will resume next Monday, most likely! I do hope you’ll check out Jessixa here in this video (and on her website). I think you’ll love her just as much as I do. (And just like the El Deafo videos, the In-Betweeners is captioned for those who need it.)

Without further ado, here is…The In-Betweeners!

A deep dive into chapter 12 of El Deafo: The Eye Incident with Martha!

13 Jul

Join me — and the amazing Martha! — as we talk about the moment when I hurt my eye while we were playing tag.

You’ll see just how subjective memory can be. Here I thought this was one of the most accurate chapters in the book…but the details in Martha’s version are quite different. However, the overwhelming sadness that occurred in the aftermath of this accident? Those were felt deeply by both of us. It is SO cool — an honor, really — to hear Martha’s side of things!

I do a LOT of giggling in this video, but it’s nervous laughter more than anything. (Plus, Martha is a TERRIFIC storyteller and a hilarious human being.) Hearing Martha tell her side of the story was kinda stressful!

Many thanks to Tom Angleberger for helping me subtitle this conversation. Martha and I talk over each other so often that it’s really hard to figure out what we’re saying half the time! But Tom himself thought this footage was fascinating, which is high praise from the man himself.

Also: this is the only chapter so far that I’ve read out loud word-for-word…and for no good reason, I do a pretty mean imitation of a lizard, if I say so myself.

Here’s a link to the video. Enjoy! And please be good to each other.

A new deep dive into the world of El Deafo: Chapter 11! Supercrush! Mike Miller!

22 Jun

But first, a disclaimer: my REAL supercrush is the amazing Tom Angleberger. Lots of kids ask me if I grew up to marry Mike Miller. Nope, I didn’t. I met Tom Angleberger in college and we fell in love, in luv, in lurve, got married…and the rest is history. In case you don’t know, Tom is a fantastic author and illustrator (check out his website here), and probably one of the funniest people I know.

But way back when I was a kid, Mike Miller moved to my street and it was a very big deal. This installment of my chapter-by-chapter series talks about what it was like when he arrived. There’s also more footage of Martha talking not just about Mike’s arrival, but about the fun stuff we did when we were kids, and how it seems like kids today don’t have quite as much freedom as we did then. (I think we grew up to be a lot more over-protective with our own kids than our parents were. Perhaps we saw and experienced a lot of things within those freedoms that might have freaked us out a little!)

I also talk a bit about the Partridge Family, and all the teen heartthrobs of my day…how’s about that David Cassidy and Leif Garrett???

Here’s the video…I hope you’ll enjoy it!

On another subject, this is around the time of year that members of the American Library Association honors authors and illustrators with Newbery, Caldecott, Geisel, Printz awards (Youth Media Awards). I was lucky enough to get a Geisel honor for my early reader Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot, which still blows my mind.

Many many thanks to all the folks on the Geisel Committee for even considering a book with the lines: My foot smells good. My foot smells great!

HUGE congrats to ALL the winners, especially Caldecott winner Kadir Nelson, for his book with Kwame Alexander, The Undefeated

and Newbery winner Jerry Craft, for his graphic novel New Kid — the first graphic novel ever to win the medal!

These books are beyond amazing and very much deserve such high accolades. Well done!

A deep dive into…a little something different, and a lot more important…

8 Jun

I’m posting my usual Monday morning video, but it’s not about Chapter 11 of El Deafo. It’s about Black Lives Matter, and the protests, and injustices to Black citizens of this country. It’s also about deafness, and how deafness — and any other disability, for that matter — can compound the already fraught communications between Black people and figures of authority.

I know it’s not the stuff that you’re accustomed to from me, and that it’s not fun to watch and listen to, but all of us — myself included — can no longer look away or be silent. I also acknowledge that this blog post, and my video, are far from perfect, and I make a lot of communication errors of my own. But it’s a start.

There are many ways to help. Tom and I have donated to several organizations on this very helpful list, courtesy of New York magazine.

And there are many ways to enhance empathy, like reading amazing books by some of my favorite authors, including Jackie Woodson, Jerry Craft, Christopher Paul Curtis, Kwame Alexander, Rita Williams Garcia, Angie Thomas, Lamar Giles, and many, many others.

Here’s the video. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thank you for reading and watching and listening. XOXOXO — Cece B.

The deep dive into Chapter 10 of El Deafo is the BEST…

1 Jun

because the REAL Martha Claytor is in it!

Yep, I met up with the REAL LIVE MARTHA CLAYTOR on Zoom last week, and recorded our conversation so that you could see what she’s like!

We had so much fun talking through some of the details in the book…sometimes our memories matched, but sometimes they didn’t. Martha gives us a few clarifications about stuff that’s in the book, and she offers many fresh insights on the power of our friendship specifically, as well as the power of friendships in general.

Martha is as wonderful and funny now as she was all those years ago. I think that you will love her as much as I do.

HUGE KUDOS to the amazing Tom Angleberger, who spent several hours trying to translate what often sounds like a secret language known only to Martha and myself. Let’s call that language Ce-Mart. Or Claybell!

Here’s the video:

Please stay safe, stay well, and please, please, please…remember that EMPATHY is the only way forward. Yours in friendship!

El Deafo Chapter 9 Deep Dive is UP!

25 May

I hope you are all having a restful long weekend.

The deep dive into Chapter 9 of El Deafo is up. Easily the hardest chapter to write. I’m still kinda ashamed of my bad attitude about sign language when I was a kid…and very ashamed of kicking my sweet mama in the shin! But maybe this video will give some deeper understanding into how I was feeling when I was young.

My attitude about sign language is 100% different now. But I STILL have not learned sign language…no real excuse except time and age and life and everything else. And oh yeah, and I’ve never been a natural at learning new languages. But Tom and I might need to learn some now because lip-reading in a masked world is not looking too pretty. I’ll need an interpreter and I don’t want Tom to have to take off the mask to talk to me!

Here’s hoping I haven’t offended anyone with this particular chapter, or with this video about this chapter. Like I said, a real tough one to write.

I hope you’ll enjoy the video! Here it is…and XOXOXOX to you all.