I recently finished the short read that is Magic People Around the World, a children's book by the late Barbara Softly that was published in America in 1970. (Its original title in the UK was More Magic People.)
I learned about a few folklore legends that I wasn't previously aware of, including the Nain Rouge (a red dwarf who originated in France and became an urban legend in Detroit) and the bizarre and diverse kappa of Japanese folklore.
But the biggest delights in the book are the illustrations (including the cover) by Vera Bock (1905-1973), who was born in Russia and moved to the United States at a young age. During her career, she made posters for the Works Progress Administration1, illustrated numerous children's books, and worked at Life and Coronet magazines. To read more about Bock and see more of her incredible work, check out these links:
- 50 Watts: A Ring and a Riddle
- Book Storey: Vera Bock
- Madame Pickwick: Pulp in the Post
- The Passing Tramp: A Formal Affair: Jacket Designs for Eden Phillpotts Mysteries
In Magic People Around the World, Bock adds her own dedication at the beginning of the book, and it sets the tone nicely for what's to come: "To all those who, at times, do forget to set out that nightly bowl of milk — the pictures in this book are dedicated. V.B."
Here are a couple examples of Bock's interior illustrations. The reproduction isn't perfect, because I couldn't lay the book flat on the scanner and had to snap photos instead. If you like her work, used copies of this book are very inexpensive on Amazon right now.
And here's a closeup look at part of the cover illustration. I'm not even sure what piece of folklore this refers to, but it's awesome.
As one final bonus, my copy came with the circulation card and card pocket, from R.K. Webb School Library Media Center, still intact. Sadly, however, nobody ever checked the book out! They didn't know what they were missing.
1. One of Vera Bock's WPA posters lives on and can be purchased at AllPosters.com.