Five things to know about Little Golden Books Little Golden Books are known for their shiny, golden spine. (Mike Mozart/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Five things to know about Little Golden Books
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Millions of children have grown up reading Little Golden Books. They are a vibrantly colored children's series populated by cute creatures and intrepid locomotives. Each book is encased in a shiny, golden spine. This year, reports Lynn Neary for NPR, Little Golden Books will celebrate its 75th birthday. In honor of this milestone, here are five things to know about the iconic franchise:
 
It transformed the concept of a children's book.
 
Prior to the launch of Little Golden Books in 1942, children's books looked very different. 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 sold exclusively in bookstores. They cost between $2 or $3. That was far more than most families could afford.
 
That all changed when Simon & Schuster partnered with Western Publishing. It is a Wisconsin-based publishing house. They planned to create a series of accessible, affordable children's books. The Little Golden Books were colorful and sturdy. And with a cost of just 25 cents a pop, the books were cheap. The publishers also made sure to stock the books in department stores, supermarkets, 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 would be The Little Poky Puppy. It has sold almost 15 million copies since its publication as one of the original 12 Little Golden Books in 1942. That is according to Lammie. The charming tale of a dessert-loving dog 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, a whopping 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 who 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, a story about two pigs who run away from their homeland and start a new life in America.
 
Little Golden Books has taken steps to address its biases.
 
In the 1960s, the series was criticized for failing to depict any black children in a book about the Central Park Zoo, Jim Higgins reports for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The publishers initially bristled at the charges. But they eventually released a line of books that prominently featured black characters. Richard Scarry was a beloved children's artist who got his start at Little Golden Books. He revised his illustrations when feminists accused him of maintaining gender stereotypes. Reprints of his books now show female characters driving cars and male characters 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 including pop culture figures. As Lammie writes, just about every kid-friendly character has popped up in Little Golden Books stories. These include Annie Oakley, the Flintstones and Disney princesses (so many Disney princesses). Even Donny and Marie Osmond made an appearance. They were in a 1977 Little Golden Book. It was titled Donny and Marie: The Top Secret Project.
 
Seventy-five years on, Little Golden Books has gained a new publisher. It is Penguin Random House. But the franchise has kept its spirit. New stories feature characters loved by kids today. They include Blaze and the Monster Machines!Elena of Avalor!Kung Fu Panda! The classics are still printed too, allowing new generations of readers to revel in the adventures of The Poky Little Puppy and The Saggy Baggy Elephant.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why were the books encased in a shiny, golden spine?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (115)
  • dylant-bur
    3/27/2017 - 10:12 a.m.

    When the kids where looking for books they saw the gold ones and liked it because it was gold

  • taniellem-pay
    3/27/2017 - 10:47 a.m.

    The books where encased in a shiny golden spine because it symbolizes the passion of the authors writing for kids and the sparkle, glitz and glamour that kids love so much.

  • brianac-bur
    3/27/2017 - 11:06 a.m.

    They made a golden spine to show that its a "little golden book", and it goes with the name.

  • samathau-bur
    3/27/2017 - 12:41 p.m.

    The books were encased in a shiny, golden spine because it gives something to the name since they are called "Little Golden Books". They also wanted for their books to be colorful and stand out while also being appealing to the eye.I know that when I was little when I saw a book or toy with a shiny sticker or shiny spine, I thought it was something interesting. Most books have a dull spine but the creators of "Little Golden Books" wanted something different.

  • breannad-bur
    3/27/2017 - 12:48 p.m.

    The books had shiny golden spines because the books were 'Little Golden Books'. They made it so that the title would go with the book. This was also made because books with interesting spines are more attracting, this way that more books of their kind would be sold and they would get a better pay for it.

  • breannad-bur
    3/27/2017 - 12:51 p.m.

    I remember those days where my bookshelf was full of these books. I used to love to read them! I would read them over and over until my mom threw all of them away, except for my two favorite ones.

  • jnyahp-bur
    3/27/2017 - 12:57 p.m.

    The Books were encased with a shiny, golden spine so that children and buyers alike could recognize that it was a Little Golden book. I can always recognize my Little Goldens easily because of that metallic spine

  • garfielda-
    3/27/2017 - 01:10 p.m.

    because they are cute creatures.

  • johana-bur
    3/27/2017 - 01:59 p.m.

    I thin they were made like that so kids could see that those books are really interesting books to read. I thin k that those books would be inspiring to read.

  • jamariw-orv
    3/27/2017 - 03:53 p.m.

    I think the gold spine would make kids pay more attention to it. And it also corresponds with the title. I used to read these books but never noticed the spine because I just liked the pictures.

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