Little Golden Books Through the Years

April 2 is Children's Book Day. To celebrate that day, this hub is about key dates in the history of Little Golden Books.


A Brief History of Little Golden Books

When Little Golden Books were first published in 1942, they were a revolutionary concept in children’s books. They were inexpensive – just 25 cents – and available in supermarkets, drug stores and other small stores.

Until 1942, there weren’t a lot of options for children when it came to books. The books they read were either written for adults or were books with a moral or religious slant.

At first, Little Golden Books were based on classic fairy tales or were original stories from the publisher’s stable of authors and illustrators. But in 1944, the company signed a licensing agreement with Disney.

Through the years, Little Golden Books have satisfied children’s curiosity about the world around them with nature- and science-themed books. They’ve taught children nursery rhymes, prayers and poetry.

Here’s a decade-by-decade look at some of the more popular Little Golden Books.


The Original 12 Titles

Three Little Kittens

Bedtime Stories

The Alphabet A – Z

Mother Goose

Prayers for Children

The Little Red Hen

Nursery Songs

The Poky Little Puppy

The Golden Book of Fairy Tales

Baby’s Book

The Animals of Farmer Jones

This Little Piggy


The books shown here not listed at Amazon all are sources from http://www.childrensclassics.com.au
The books shown here not listed at Amazon all are sources from http://www.childrensclassics.com.au
This Little Golden Book is often seen as sexist but it was typical for its time period.
This Little Golden Book is often seen as sexist but it was typical for its time period.
One of my favorite Little Golden Book to read to my children.
One of my favorite Little Golden Book to read to my children.

The 1950s - The Golden Era of Little Golden Books

Cultural artifacts reflect the world around us and that held true for Little Golden Books as well. With the space race on between the United States and the then Soviet Union, it's no wonder that the publisher came out with such books as Mickey Mouse and His Space Ship.






And while some people might roll their eyes at the "stay-at-home mother" in We Help Mommy, it nonetheless taught children the value of being helpful. Television show characters and Westerns such as Cheyenne were also popular.







I still remember reading A Child's Garden of Verses to my older son. One favorite poem was this one by Robert Louis Stevenson:

The Swing
How do you like to go up in a swing, 
   Up in the air so blue? 
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing 
   Ever a child can do! 
Up in the air and over the wall, 
   Till I can see so wide, 
Rivers and trees and cattle and all 
   Over the countryside— 
Till I look down on the garden green, 
   Down on the roof so brown— 
Up in the air I go flying again, 
   Up in the air and down!

Little Golden Books in the 1960s

According to Random House, many of the new titles in the 1960s focused on popular Saturday morning cartoons like Yogi Bear and The Flintstones. Until 1962, the price of a book remained 25 cents, when it went up 4 cents. Six years later, in 1968, the price of a new Little Golden Book jumped to 39 cents.


The 1960s was a contentious era but Disney still made us happy with movies and songs. The Jungle Book movie was one of my favorites when I was kid.




Animal Daddies and My Daddy is another book I clearly remember reading to my older son when his dad was deployed.



 Little Golden Books often reflected the culture of the times, as did this one about Sesame Street.
Little Golden Books often reflected the culture of the times, as did this one about Sesame Street.

The 1970s' Little Golden Books

Sesame Street premiered in November 1969 and became very popular with young children and their parents. Jim Henson's Muppets taught children their numbers and the alphabet in a fun way along with such social skills as getting along, being helpful and being part of a diverse community.

All of this helped get children ready for kindergarten. And if that didn't work, there was always We Like Kindergarten.


The 1980s - Little Golden Books Still Popular After 40 Years

In 1982, Little Golden Books celebrated its 40th anniversary and had more than 800 million books sold. In November 1986, the ever-popular The Poky Little Puppy had been printed one billion times. By this time, the average Little Golden Book cost 99 cents. Today the average cost is $3.99.

Classic tales such as The Tortoise and The Hare were in the series, but so were stories such as "Duck Tales" based on a Disney cartoon, which both of my boys enjoyed watching.

The 1990s - Another Milestone Decade for Little Golden Books

In 1992, Little Golden Books turned 50! The Smithsonian Institution hosted an exhibit, titled Little Golden Books and American Culture 1942-1992.

In the 1990s, books based on Disney movies like The Lion King were still very popular, but so were Richard Scarry's books and timeless stories such as The Velveteen Rabbit.


Little Golden Books in the 2000s

Publisher's Weekly lists Scooby-Doo: The Haunted Carnival as the third bestselling hardcover children's book title for 2000.

Two years later, Little Golden Books had 1,200 unique titles in its series. To celebrate its 60th anniversary, a special edition boxed set of Little Golden Books Classics was released.

Despite the tie-ins with cartoons and movies, classic children's stories and poems such as Eloise Wilkin Stories. Eloise Wilkin was a beloved illustrator of many Little Golden Books. Her drawings of round-faced children with their sweet expressions are as recognizable as Garth Williams' illustrations in the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.


The 2010s - Little Golden Books are Still Going Strong

A new decade of Little Golden Books begins with five collections of "tales." Farm Tales, Inspirational Tales, Animal Tales, Sleepytime Tales and Friendly Tales are all unabridged collections of stories that are mostly old favorites but also have a few new stories included.

Margaret Wise Brown, best known for Goodnight Moon, has 20 of her stories and poems collected in Friendly Tales.


Everything I Need to Know I Learned from A Little Golden Book came out in Dec. 2014 and appealed to Baby Boomers who grew up reading them.



.

Little Golden Books have been going strong since they first were published in 1942 and it's likely they will continue to be read and re-read by generations to come.


Do you have a favorite Little Golden Book you read as a child or that you read to your own children? Tell us in the comments section below.

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Comments 35 comments

Brainy Bunny profile image

Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

Lovely hub! I still treasure my ancient copy of We Help Mommy (and its companion volume, We Help Daddy). Other than that, I'd have to say you missed out on one very important one -- The Monster at the End of This Book!


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks Brainy Bunny. I'm not familiar with that one and don't recall coming across that title when I was researching this hub. About when was it published?


Brainy Bunny profile image

Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

Oh, I don't know exactly, sometimes in the late 70s or early 80s. It's the most famous of the Sesame Street books. Grover is frightened because he's heard there's a monster at the end of the book, so he does all sorts of silly things like bricking up the pages and tying them with ropes to get the reader to stop reading. (Of course, he was the monster all along.) That was by far my favorite Little Golden Book, and probably the favorite of many of my generation.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Ah, "your generation" That explains it! :)

Hm, I'll have to go back and add that in. Sounds like it was a cute book. I was so tired by the time I posted this at 1:30 a.m. that I couldn't bear to work on it any longer.


WD Curry 111 profile image

WD Curry 111 4 years ago from Space Coast

What a wonderful history. This was one of my favorite hubs. The reason why . . . you did a masterful job on the layout and presentation of the products. It is one of the most meaningful uses of Amazon as a reference resource that I have seen.


cardelean profile image

cardelean 4 years ago from Michigan

Great hub! I enjoyed the history of the Golden Books. I think that The Pokey Little Puppy was my favorite but I definitely remember We Help Mommy and I know that I had We Like Kindergarten. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!


debbie roberts profile image

debbie roberts 4 years ago from Greece

I've never heard Little Golden Books before, but they sound very similar to the Ladybird books aimed at children of all ages in the UK.

Books are a big source of fun and education for children and adults and reading should be encouraged on all levels.

I'm sure The Little Red Hen was my very first reading book at school. Funny how certain things stick with you.

An interesting hub voted up and shared.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks WD. I was concerned that the layout looked too "busy" and odd with some of the sidebars not having a background. I couldn't find some of the books I wanted to highlight on Amazon so wasn't able to actually put them in a sidebar. Thanks for reading.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Cara, I actually had started a much longer hub about LGB's history which I will finish soon. But I had wanted to get something in for the Children's Book Day so settled on this. I very much remember seeing The Poky Little Puppy at your house! Glad you liked it


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Hi Debbie, thanks for sharing! I appreciate that.

I went online to check out the Ladybird line of books and they too have an interesting history. The first book in the LB line was published in 1915, actually. The line also was more focused on non-fiction for kids, bringing science, geography and so on down to levels they could more easily understand. The 1940s-1960s seem to have been a prime era for books for kids, maybe because of the baby boom.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

Thanks for this look at Little Golden Books' history. I wish I had bought double of the ones we purchased for our children when they were little so my grandchildren could have the exact same ones today. Hindsight is 20/20. :) Pokey Little Puppy was a favorite!


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks for reading RTalloni. I never had a copy of the Poky Little Puppy, despite it being the most popular one. Not sure why. I was reminded of comic books while doing research about these books and how they are collectibles. If I had only taken better care of and saved some of our old Superman, etc comics, I could be rich!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

Boy does this hub bring back memories. I recall many of those familiar titles, some from reading to my kids! Thanks for sharing a bit of the history for Golden Books. They bring a smile to my face when I see them in the stores. Th Pokey Little Puppy was the first one I bought for Cara and I remember the Kindergarten story being her favorite for awhile as she prepared for that special first day.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Dee, I agree, it was a walk down memory lane writing this hub.


askpanditji 4 years ago

I am very thankful to this topic because it really gives useful information.


MobyWho profile image

MobyWho 4 years ago from Burlington VT

Loved your Hub Danette. While books are a long way from $0.99 today, the number of local libraries offering exciting 'kid's corners' has mushroomed. All the books are there, waiting for the readers to come explore.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

thanks askpanditji, for taking the time to read my hub and leave a comment.

MobyWho, I loved the library when I was growing up (still do, of course) and my mom worked in one. They definitely didn't have the kinds of children's reading areas, programs, etc. that they do now. thanks for reading.


barbergirl28 profile image

barbergirl28 4 years ago from Hemet, Ca

This brought back so many memories of my childhood. I remember having a collection of Little Golden Books. Even today, and I am not sure if it is because I always thoguht of Little Golden Books as affordable, I still try to keep my eye out for them. I like giving my kids a book as a treat if they have behaved in the story. My favorite all time story was The Poky Little Puppy. When I had kids, I actually had a hard time finding the book (not going to a book store of course!) but eventually I did. Still love the book just as much as I did when I was a kid! Great hub and so much information that I never knew about the Little Golden Books! They have definatley made a name for themselves! :)


daskittlez69 profile image

daskittlez69 4 years ago from midwest

This Hub brought back a lot of memories. Thanks Danette!


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks barbergirl28 and daskittlez69 for reading. This hub seems to have touched a nerve with everyone with the memories it's brought up.


Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

Barbsbitsnpieces 4 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

@Danette Watt...A fun read!

The Poky Little Puppy was a favorite of my little daughter, who learned to read in the middle '70s. Of course, she sat in front of the TV show "Sesame Street" during her "wee" years.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Hi Barbsbitsnpieces. These were such fun books. I don't think there's any American child who hasn't read one at some time. Thanks for reading and commenting.


Kaili Bisson profile image

Kaili Bisson 4 years ago from Canada

Oh, how I loved the Poky Little Puppy! Thank you for writing such a wonderful hub.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks Kaili, that's probably the one book I never bought for my kids. Not sure why, maybe it just wasn't around at the time, but do remember it at my sister's when her girls were little. Thanks for reading and commenting.


toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 4 years ago

Great hub. You brought back so many warm and fuzzy childhood memories. I have always loved to read and instilled that love in my children, who are avid readers and wonderful writers. All this, thanks in large part to my collection of Golden Books that I read as a little girl. The thought that comes to mind is, will children soon be reading little golden ebooks?


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks toknowinfo! You bring up a good question. I started (but haven't yet been able to finish) a second hub on LGB and include a short video about Little Pokey Puppy being on an e-reader. In my opinion, cuddling up with mom and an e-reader just isn't the same.


toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 4 years ago

I agree. what will become of reading to children if electronics become a substitute for tangible books to hold.


TheLastBabyBoomer profile image

TheLastBabyBoomer 4 years ago from Surprise Arizona

Thank you for the walk down memory lane. Wonderful hub.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks TheLastBabyBoomer! I'm glad you enjoyed your walk down memory lane and it sounds like they were all pleasant ones.


bat115 profile image

bat115 3 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

Interesting Hub! I had quite a few of these back in the day! ha. Hadn't thought about them in years! Loved reading this!


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 3 years ago from Illinois Author

Hi bat115. Glad you enjoyed reading this. It does bring back memories, doesn't it? As I came here to respond to your comment, I skimmed the info and was reminded of many of the books I'd had as a child or my children had.


Emily 3 years ago

You brought back some wonderful memories. I wish I still had "We Love Kindergarten".


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 3 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks Emily. I'm glad it brought back some fond memories.


PaigSr profile image

PaigSr 2 years ago from State of Confussion

Thanks for all the books you listed. I am pretty sure I have read all of them. Can't say that I own all of them. But read they yes.


Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 2 years ago from Illinois Author

Hi PaigSr, Thanks for leaving a comment. So many fond memories of these little books, eh? There's a rack in my grocery store and every time I pass it, I think of my kids and smile.

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