Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Little Golden Books


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"

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.

An excerpt from the book:

"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.

For collectors, and those interested in reminiscing, there is a book published by Random House available called "Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became An American Icon Along the Way" by Leonard S. Marcus a noted children's book historian. Golden Legacy is a lively history of a company, a line of books, the groundbreaking writers and artists who created them, the clever mavericks who marketed and sold them, and the cultural landscape that surrounded them.

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!


Edie Marie's Attic said...

Ohhh Pat, I love the Pokey Little Puppy sooo much as a child! What wonderful memories! I think that was my boys favorite too. I have GOT to find some Eloise Wilkins books to read to my granddaughters. My 2 yr old Addy is a book lover! She is constantly bringing books to me to read to her the entire time we're together. Thank you for such sweet memories and for making me feel I MUST look for some of these for Addy and Avery!
Hugs, Sherry

An Enchanted Cottage said...

Oh, Pat, what a wave of nostalgia just rushed over me when I read your blog today! We even spoke before about Eloise Wilkin's illustrations, but I can always count on you to come up with such interesting facts and background information! My (now 22 year old) daughter received the My Goodnight Book for her second Christmas. We have the Prayers for Children and the Saggy Baggy Elephant and several of the Christmas golden books. I have so many of my girls old books packed in boxes under my bed... I want to get them out and look at them now! Thanks so much for that wonderful trip down memory lane!!...Donna

An Enchanted Cottage said...

Oh, geez - I got so excited about the Golden Books that I forgot the other thing I had to say! I thought of you when I got that squirrel massage video because we'd just talked about spa days! And I also wanted to thank you for the info on how to clip the basil! Also, I don't put out much seed to the birds in my yard, but I do have MULTIPLE bird baths and that seems to be what attracts so many of them to my yard! Birds can always find their natural food sources, but they are always searching for water. I was just teling my husband the other day that I'm sure that's what attracts so many birds and critters to our yard, the abundance of 'water holes' LOL... I even have a heated birdbath attached to the deck railing all winter long and the squirrels and birds love that!...Donna

Mrs. B said...

Hi Pat! What a wonderful topic! I'm sure this is something that will spark sentimentality in everyone!

I love little Golden Books and I love Eloise Wilkins illustrations. I had them as a child and read them to my children now. According to my mother, my favorite was Tawny Scrawny Lion. It's still one of my favorites to read to my own kids. My son also loves Scuppers the Sailor Dog, Tootle, and Scuffy the Tug Boat. My mother has recently been giving me boxes of things she's saved from my childhood and included in them were some old Raggedy Anne and Andy Little Golden Books which I remember dearly.

One of my favorite Eloise Wilkin books is Baby's First Christmas. I adore the illustrations. They just look so cozy and sweet. My mom always says that my 6 year old daughter looks like one of the kids in her illustrations because of her round face.

Beverly said...

I always adored Eloise Wilkins' illustrations. We had so many of the books you mentioned - and still have quite a few. I even have a few that were mine, but mostly ones that belonged to my son and then grandson. I have scanned some of the covers to use in scrapbook layouts.

My son's favorites were the Christmas books, and my grandson almost wore out Frosty The Snowman.

I love your post today. I brought me many smiles and warm memories. Thanks for always pleasant reads.

Rosie's Whimsy said...

My favorite is the The Little Red Caboose! What great memories you post brought back......and a reminder of some books I need to buy my upcoming grandbaby!

Rhondi said...

Hi Pat
I had little golden books as a child but I can't remember any of the names! The Pokey Little Puppy looks very familiar. WHen our kids were young tI read them stories from the Little golden books too.

willow said...

I adored Little Golden Books when I was a child and still have my collection, although they are somewhat threadbare after reading them to my own three. My personal favorites were those illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky, The Three Bears and Gaston and Josephine.

Delightful post, Pat!

Rue said...

Sorry, I had to fry chicken, but I'm back ;)

I loved the Pokey Puppy and Scuffy the Tugboat. I didn't know the story behind those, so I'm really happy you shared it :)

Have a good night Pat. I've got to go feed my straving kids LOL


Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

This post has me all grins. Oh yes, how I loved my Little Golden Books! Every shopping day, almost without fail, we received one that mother had picked up in the cereal aisle. A book and animal crackers...a great combination.

I loved A Child's Garden of Verses (also Eloise Wilkin's) and I have one that was published in my birth year about a wedding, which I will post some fine day. The art work was so fine and even the paper was smooth and pleasant to touch. So many of the books today use the worst paper...drives me wild.

Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane!

Cori G. said...

Hi Pat, I popped over to post a post on your post to me. I love amazing grace! It's one of my favorites too. Did you see he movie? The costumes and sets were just gorgeous! What a special gift for your daughter to give you. There's just something so wonderful about old sheet music.
Oh! I posted some pictures of the Mark Twain on my blog for you today. I was there this afternoon and had a wonderful time.
I hope you have a wonderful week and I'll hug you back :)

Penny @ Lavender Hill Studio said...

I don't remember the Little Golden Books as a child, but I do remember buying them for MY child...every week when I went to the grocery store, I bought another Little Golden Book.

Thanks for the lovely memories..

Kelli said...

I love Little Golden Books! We have all of them compiled into one book, but it's not the same as those sweet individual ones.

bluemuf said...

Pat, I love Golden books and really enjoyed your post. It was so interesting

Hugs Karen

Junie Moon said...

I do indeed remember those books. They are such a delight. The Pokey Little Puppy is the one that stands out in my memory.

Susie Q said...

What a wonderful post dear Pat! Such sweet memories. I had so many of them and still have a few. I my Santa Claus one that comes out every December! I have a few that come out at Easter too.
I love the Eloise Wilkins one. What a sweet find for you!
Dan had a couple, Grace had some and my nephew has those and more I have purchased for him. He LOVES books so much.

Thank you for this today...it was such a lovely way to spend some time.


Loretta said...

My Goodnight Book! We read that to both our girls every night before bed. Lovely memories and we have kept them all - and the kids fight over "whose" book it is!

Gina said...

Very interesting history of the LGBs Pat..there were very popular here i Australia too and 'The Poky Little Puppy' and 'Boy With a Drum' were my girl's favourites! My sister's and mine were also 'Boy with a Drum' and 'I help Mommy'! I can remember there were several Australian titles such as 'Skippy the Bush Kangaroo' which was also a tv series and some were printed exclusively here.. Thanks for the memory :O) Gxx

Linda's Blue Gate said...

I never knew all those very interesting facts about Golden Books...I just know that I have loved them..... thanks for the memories

Tara said...


The POkey Puppy was it for me and my son when he was young! They are favorites just like Dr. Seuss. My childhood books first went to my classroom then through all three kids and I am saving them for the future...you really never get to old to read such a good story!



M.KATE said...

Hi Pat..nice books. Unfortunately, I didn't keep any of my old books, must've been very interesting for the children. These are very colourful collection but sadly, we dont have it here.

thanks for sharing with all of us. a big hug to you :)

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

I well remember these books...especially Hansel and Gretel....so cherubic..

I picked up so many of them for my daughter when she was young...we loved reading them and studying the pictures...

Many, many happy memories...Thanks for the historical info.

steviewren said...

Oh my gosh, Little Golden Books are one of my loves. I had them as a child, I bought them for my children and I began collecting them for myself 12 or so years ago. I don't even know how many I have. I love the old ones but buy any new one that appeals to me too.

Eloise Wilkins is one of my favorite artists but there were so many talented artists that did illustrations for the books.

My grandchildren love them now.