Monday, July 1, 2019

Delightful Blair Lent illustrations from "Baba Yaga"

For some reason ⁠— lost in the sands of time of the past 15 years ⁠— I have just this single page in my piles of ephemera. Obviously, it stems from my Baba Yaga Fandom™; I reckon the rest of the book was too battered to keep.

That book is Baba Yaga, first published in 1966 by Houghton Mifflin. It was written by Ernest Small and illustrated by Blair Lent.

But here's the interesting thing: Ernest and Blair are the same person.

When Lent died at age 80 in early 2009, The New York Times obituary noted that "under the name Ernest Small, he wrote 'Baba Yaga' (1966), based on a witch in Russian folk tales." It was as an illustrator that Lent found his greatest success, which might explain why he kept that "brand" separate and wrote under a pen name. The Times article states that he "specialized in illustrating international folk tales retold by other writers. Using a broad variety of techniques, including cardboard cutouts, colored pencil, acrylic painting, and ink and wash, he provided the images for tales from Japan, Russia, India and Africa."

On her website about children's books, BooksTogether, Anamaria Anderson noted: "It was only when I read Lent's obituary that I realized that author Ernest Small and illustrator Blair Lent were one and the same person. I don't think I've ever seen someone credited separately, by pen name and real name, for the same book, but I agree that Lent deserves a lot of credit."

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