Picture Book Spotlight: Small Deer’s Magic Tricks

Small Deer’s Magic Tricks by Betty Boegehold and Jacqueline Chwast
Published: Coward, McCann and Geoghegan, 1977
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My mother loved children’s books. She wanted me to study English and write children’s books on the side, but didn’t live quite long enough to see my first children’s book published. I don’t think she would have thought any less of it for being a licensed graphic novel, as long as it wasn’t more Small Deer.

Small Deer’s Magic Tricks was one of my favorite books as a child and also the book my mother hated the most. It took me years to understand why. She didn’t hate the book, as it turned out–she hated Small Deer. Which is completely understandable, because Small Deer dishes out cold justice and walks away unscathed.

The book contains four stories, all of which present Small Deer as the smartest animal in the jungle at some other animal’s expense.

Guess who got him into this mess

Small Deer is trying to survive, of course. Tigers and crocodiles are out to eat her and she has to use her wits to get on with her day. She just doesn’t always have the most humble attitude about it.

Look at that smug bitchface

It’s not always easy to excuse Small Deer’s choices when she decides to lie to an entire river of crocodiles just to get some sun. The final story has the most questionable likely consequences when she convinces a pile of gullible bystanders to sit in a hole and wait for the end of the world.

“Your eventual death is not my concern.”

Winning through cleverness appealed to me as a child, my mother–not so much. Pick up a used copy and give it to the child of someone you’d like to annoy.

Author of Strawberry Shortcake: Return of the Purple Pie Man, Disney’s Frozen Comic Collection, Transformers: Robots in Disguise Animated and Littlest Pet Shop: Open for Business. She’s written for IDW Publishing, Hasbro, Lion Forge, American Greetings and Scholastic, and her work has been discussed in Comics Beat and The Washington Post. Subscribe to the newsletter

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