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
The Alphabet A – Z
Prayers for Children
The Little Red Hen
The Poky Little Puppy
The Golden Book of Fairy Tales
The Animals of Farmer Jones
This Little Piggy
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:
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.
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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