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An insightful exploration of a child’s psyche

Thirteen Running Deer

Mattias De Leeuw & Edward van de Vendel

There are plenty of children’s books about imaginary friends, but this poetic tale is just a little bit different. Moonie is staring at a vase one day when thirteen tiny blue deer come trotting out of it. They climb up her arms and their footsteps leave dents in her sleeve. And before they disappear into her hood, one of them whispers respectfully in Moonie’s ear, ‘Duchess.’

The deer do not turn out to be friends in whom Moonie can confide, and they don’t come when she calls. They reflect her own character: jumpy, timid, sweet and fragile. Moonie’s explosive brother Raf is completely different. He has a short fuse and often gets ‘fired up’. The story culminates in a thrilling showdown between Raf’s animal, a roaring lion, and Moonie’s deer.

Great poetry in words and images
Jury Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis

In his succinct sentences, Edward van de Vendel presents a convincing picture of the inner world and conversations of the two children. But young talent Mattias De Leeuw also produces most impressive work. His illustrations do as much to tell the story as the text does. De Leeuw employs a minimal background and simple lines and makes very effective use of colour. The little deer in particular are beautifully drawn: they dart and dash over the pages, expressing playfulness, submission and fear.

Its layers, the tension, tenderness and beautiful illustrations, one of the finest children’s books of the year
De Standaard
'De Leeuw understands the art of visualizing inner images'
Birgit Lockheimer, editor at Gerstenberg Verlag (Germany)

''What an amazing blue!' I thought in surprise, when I first saw 'Thirteen Running Deer'. Right until the final page, the book is saturated with that blue, which develops an incredible intensity. The second thing I noticed just when leafing through the book was the airy lightness of the often sketch-like illustrations with which the calm, playful, sensitive and vulnerable deer are so strikingly put on the paper. There is a great contrast with the powerful images of the threateningly roaring lion or of the furious brother, who has a temper like a thundercloud: those pictures are given a flaming red background. And there is a lot of emotion in these pictures. One thing is certain: Mattias De Leeuw has the whole range of emotions in his fingers. But that’s not all: he understands the art of visualizing inner images while leaving space for the viewer’s imagination. This openness is one of the secrets to the effect that his work achieves. The interplay of words and pictures is also exceptional. Author and illustrator developed the story together, and both tell their tale in a similar way, using the same means: poetry, reduction and a sense of rhythm and space.'