Did you have a Little Golden Books or two when you were a child? Did you buy them for your own children?
When Little Golden Books launched in 1942 at 25 cents each, they changed publishing history. For the first time, children's books were high quality and low-priced and they were sold in many places beside book stores, which was a new concept at the time.
In 1941, children's books normally sold for $2-$3 which made them a luxury for many families. George Duplaix, president of the Artists and Writers Guild, Inc. which was a joint interest of Simon & Schuster Publishing and Western Printing, came up with the concept of developing a colorful children's book that was durable and affordable for most American families, and Little Golden Books was born.
The Poky Little Puppy, was the best-selling Little Golden Book of all, selling over 15 million copies worldwide, in many different languages.
"Tootle the Train," "The Saggy Baggy Elephant," " The Shy Little Kitten," "The Little Red Caboose," " The Tawny Scrawny Lion," and "Scuffy the Tugboat" soon followed in publication, and become almost as popular.
Today, over two billion Little Golden Books have been sold worldwide!
Little Golden Books is such an icon of American history that when it celebrated its golden anniversary in 1992, a permanent Little Golden Books exhibit was given to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The exhibit, titled: "Little Golden Books and American Culture 1942-1992," that can still be viewed there!
Random House now owns the imprint, and since 2001 has made a big push to revive beloved old books in the series. First to return were reissues of classics such as "The Saggy Baggy Elephant," "Richard Scarry's Best Little Word Book Ever!" and "Scuffy the Tugboat."
Published in their original format, they are still a bargain prices at $ 2.99.
My favorite Little Golden Book illustrator was Eloise Wilkin. Her illustrations of babies and children drawn in everyday activities, were absolutely exquisite in detail and innocence. A short biography of Mrs. Wilkin can be found here
Recently, I was thrilled to purchase the 209 page hardcover "A Little Golden Book Collection Eloise Wilkin Stories."
This collection features nine of her most treasured stories: "Busy Timmy" by Kathryn and Byron Jackson, "Guess Who Lives Here" by Louise Woodcock, "Wonders of Nature" by Jane Werner Watson, "Selections from A Child’s Garden of Verses" by Robert Louis Stevenson, and my personal favorites: "We Help Mommy" by Jean Cushman, "Baby Listens," "Baby Dear," and "Baby Looks" by Esther Wilkin, who was Eloise’s sister.
I remember the joy of reading many of of those stories as a child; wishing that I could live in the same house as the children did in the book, and have the same toys and experiences.
As was so aptly described by Jame Werner Watson as an afterword to the collection:
"A warm and creative homemaker, Eloise shared with the world glimpses of her big, busy, welcoming household, its rooms papered with gentle patterns, its drop-leaf tables and rocking chairs aglow with hand-rubbed sheen, its four-poster beds covered by hand-stitched quilts. A devoutly religious person,she shared ever so gently her values, her sense of the beauty of order and love,of implicit self-discipline, and of regard for others . . . she has left us,only slightly idealized, rich reminders of a lovely time not
very long ago."
My now adult daughter's favorite Little Golden Book was "Baby Dear"
An excerpt from the book:
The story is about a little girl who, right before her mother and father bring a new baby home from the hospital, is given a baby doll. In the story, the little girl feeds her “baby” when Mommy feeds her baby; she changes her baby’s diapers when Mommy changes the baby. They take carriage rides together and tuck them into bed at the same time.
"We smile at our babies and talk to them. Mommy says this is the way our babies know they are the most wonderful babies in the world."
There is such a sweet innocence and appeal for little girls in the illustrations that accompany the story of a big sister imitates her Mother's love for her newborn.
Eloise Wilkin was also known for designing dolls and doll houses. In the 1960s she successfully marketed a new-born infant doll called "Baby Dear," which is highly valued as a collectible today.
Another of my daughter's favorite books was "My Goodnight Book" which was a "Golden Sturdy Shape Board Book" illustrated by Eloise Wilkin.
We read that book together at bedtime for many years, as the simple text and soothing pictures of a little girl's night time routine, and her pretty moonlit bedroom in the end, was a part of a comforting ritual of her childhood.
From The New York Times Book Review, November 11, 2007:
"The book includes a wonderful selection of archival photos and artwork that convey the depth and breadth of the creative talent working there in those early years."
I'd love to know what were your favorite Little Golden Books and those of your children or grandchildren.
How wonderful to open the cover of a book and be transported back to childhood!