Books on superstitions are always popular; this one, like the author's Blue Monday and Friday the Thirteenth (1986), is unusually attractive. Organizing some of the most familiar superstitions around the cycle of a day, and getting a surprising number of them into her engaging text (the index runs to around 250 entries), Perl does much more than describe these fascinating and persistent beliefs. By sketching the origins of such phrases as ""not to be sneezed at"" (17th-century snuff-takers refrained only at the most serious moments), she broadens perceptions of both language and social history. Her healthy skepticism (three cigarettes on a match may have seemed bad luck in WW I trenches, where it gave the enemy time to sight and fire; on the other hand, it might have been the invention of a match manufacturer) and common sense (if you walk under a ladder, someone may drop something on you; but it's better not to step into traffic to avoid it) set a fine example of applying an inquiring mind to any information; she also points out that members of anti-superstition organizations seem to have survived their defiance. Concluding that superstitions ""were based on ignorance, fear, prejudice--and above all on hope,"" Peal conveys the fun of the subject while dispelling the fear. Weihs' elegant scratchboard illustrations make a lively contribution to the handsome format.