Raise your hand if you DIDN’T have a childhood that included Little Golden Books!
I would guess that very few hands are in the air, as generations of children can count them among their earliest memories.
In the early 1940s, the idea to develop a line of children’s books that was colorful, affordable, and readily available to all was born and in 1942, the first twelve titles were released at a cost of twenty-five cents each.
The Little Red Hen
The Poky Little Puppy
Three Little Kittens
Baby’s Book of Objects
This Little Piggy and Other Counting Rhymes
The Golden Book of Fairy Tales
The Animals of Farmer Jones
Prayers for Children
The Alphabet from A to Z
In less than six months time, 1.5 million copies were sold with several editions on their third printing.
The rest is a storied walk through time as Little Golden Books grew through the years – entertaining, educating, and providing children with the gift of books of their own and parents the ability to provide them, whereas before, children’s books were “pricey” and not handily available.
Golden Books also offered many gifted and talented illustrators the opportunity to showcase their work and, even now, their illustrations are often recognizable at a glance because they were such an integral part of our reading experience as we grew.
Names like Corinne Malvern, Gustaf Tenngren, Garth Williams, Richard Scarry, Tibor Gergely, Disney, and my beloved favorite, Eloise Wilkin among so many others. While we may not necessarily have their names embedded in our memories, their illustrations most assuredly are.
Through the years, Little Golden Books expanded exponentially.
In 1944, the first of the Disney influenced books was offered with many more to come.
Stories that brought inanimate objects to life like Scuffy the Tugboat and Tootle were introduced.
Fairy Tales were featured by way of Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel and Gretel, The Golden Goose, and Peter and the Wolf.
Real life was portrayed with the introduction of The Taxi that Hurried, Five Little Firemen, the New House in the Forest, and The Seven Little Postmen.
Interactive books were offered like How to Tell Time featuring a clock with movable hands on the cover, Train & Insect Stamp books with stickers, and Doctor Dan & Nurse Nancy, both with real bandages inside.
Just about every cartoon character or television icon has found its way into a Little Golden Book – Huckleberry Hound, Woody Woodpecker, Lassie, The Lone Ranger, Daniel Boone, Roy Rogers, Howdy Doody. More recently, the Muppets, Sesame Street, all things Disney, Pixar, and even Star Wars have been offered.
Some of the most beautiful of the Little Golden Books are those with a religious theme – Prayers for Children, the Little Golden Book about God, Bible Stories of Boys & Girls, and the Little Golden Book of Hymns.
And, who doesn’t have a memory of all the Christmas editions, especially Santa’s Workshop, and the truly classic The Night Before Christmas?
Despite its expansion through the years, it’s the classics that have continued to hold our hearts, illustrated by the fact that The Poky Little Puppy is the #1 best-selling children’s book of all time, having sold almost 15 million copies since its introduction in 1942.
To date there have been 1400 Little Golden Books published with over two BILLION sold.
There’s something nostalgic about what these books represent – a time that was much simpler, easier, purer perhaps. Maybe it’s just that our childhood lives were all of those things and, because Little Golden Books were/are a reflection of that time in our lives, we continue to be drawn to them – seeking out those same stories for our children and grandchildren and keeping those we are still lucky enough to have as treasured keepsakes.
I have accumulated over 500 Little Golden Books over the years. Some were my own, some were my children’s, and some I’ve picked up here and there. I love them! Some are true favorites like those of Eloise Wilkin and I would like to some day say that I have completed my collection of her work. Others I have just because they make me smile — because they make me think of a simpler time when I see them on the shelf or when I choose one at random to page through on a whim.
There aren’t too many things in this world anymore as uncomplicated and pure as a children’s book and it’s nice to know that we can still find a bit of the past and youthful innocence in something as simple as a colorful cardboard cover with a golden spine.
There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book — Proust