Five things to know about Little Golden Books
Millions of children have grown up reading Little Golden Books. They are a vibrantly colored children's series. The books are full of cute creatures. And some have fearless trains. Each book is encased in a shiny, golden spine. This year, Little Golden Books will celebrate its 75th birthday. This is according to Lynn Neary for NPR. In honor of this milestone, here are five things to know about the iconic series:
It changed the idea of a children's book.
Little Golden Books launched in 1942. Before that, children's books looked very different than they do today. As Mental Floss' Rob Lammie writes, kids' picture books often came in the form of hefty volumes. These were etched with ornate illustrations. They were only sold in bookstores. They cost between $2 and $3. That was far more than most families could afford.
That all changed. The change came after book publisher Simon & Schuster partnered with Western Publishing. It is a Wisconsin-based publishing house. They created a series of available, affordable children's books.
The Little Golden Books were colorful. They were sturdy. At just 25 cents a pop, they were cheap. The publishers made sure to stock the books in department stores and supermarkets. They could be found in train stations and five-and-dimes. They were placed in plain sight of young readers. This tactic seemed to have worked.
Little Golden Books produced the top-selling children's book of the 20th century.
That book was The Little Poky Puppy. It has sold almost 15 million copies since its publication. The book was one of the original 12 Little Golden Books. It was published in 1942. That is according to Lammie. It is a charming tale of a dessert-loving dog. It wasn't the only Little Golden Books hit. Titles like The Saggy Baggy Elephant (1947) and Scuffy the Tugboat (1955) also sold millions of copies. The sales placed them among the 10 most popular children's books of the 20th century. In total, two billion Little Golden Books have been printed. That is according to Random House Kids. Or, as the site puts it, "enough to reach the moon."
Artists who fled Europe during World War II found a home at Little Golden Books.
The publishers of Little Golden Books sought out talented commercial illustrators. Many had escaped the ravages of WWII, Neary writes. Among these illustrators was Russian émigré Feodor Rojankovsky. He brought several Little Golden Books to life. One was Gaston and Josephine. It is a story about two pigs. They run away from their homeland. They start a new life in America.
Little Golden Books has taken steps to address its biases.
In the 1960s, the series was criticized. The books had failed to show any black children. This was in a book about the Central Park Zoo in New York City. This is according to report by Jim Higgins for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. At first the publishers bristled at the claims. But they eventually released a line of books with black heroes.
Richard Scarry was a beloved children's artist. He got his start at Little Golden Books. He revised his illustrations. He made the changes after feminists accused him of spreading gender stereotypes. Reprints of his books show female characters driving cars. Some male characters were shown cooking in the kitchen.
Little Golden Books has featured a whole lot of characters.
Early Little Golden Books centered on either original characters or fairy tale creatures. But the series began adding pop culture figures. As Lammie writes, just about every kid-friendly character has popped up in Little Golden Books stories over the years. These include Annie Oakley and the Flintstones. There have been many Disney princesses.
Seventy-five years on, Little Golden Books has gained a new publisher. It is Penguin Random House. But the series has kept its spirit. New stories feature characters loved by kids today. They include Blaze and the Monster Machines!, Elena of Avalor! and Kung Fu Panda! The classics are still in print. This allows today's readers to enjoy the adventures of The Poky Little Puppy and The Saggy Baggy Elephant.
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why were the books encased in a shiny, golden spine?
Write your answers in the comments section below