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As one of my celebration activities, during the 63 Curious Things to Do for My 63rd Birthday, I drew this slip of paper: Write about a topic I’ve never written about before.
I had just boxed up children’s books in my home and delivered them to my daughter, for her baby girl, Finley. Delivering the books, I wondered, When did Little Golden Books come into existence? I remembered reading them as a child. And I read them to my children and grandchildren.
That question led to research and a blog topic I’ve never written about before.
Here’s the story behind Little Golden Books.
The Beginning of Little Golden Books
When Little Golden Books first published, in 1942, high quality books for children were expensive, averaging $2 to $3 each. Most parents couldn’t afford such books. Little Golden Books changed that, launching 12 titles in their first series.
Sold in stores where people shopped weekly, and at an extremely reasonable 25 cents each, the books gained instant popularity. Hundreds of thousands of books sold, drawing the attention of talented writers such as Margaret Wise Brown, author of Goodnight Moon, and new author Richard Scarry. Millions of children developed a love for reading, thanks to these affordable books.
The first three titles published in 1942 included Three Little Kittens, The Little Red Hen and The Alphabet from A to Z. Each book featured brightly colored illustrations and a sturdy cardboard cover with a shiny, golden spine.
Little Golden Books Timeline
Just four months after their initial launch, most Little Golden Book titles are in their third printing. More than 1.5 million copies sell during that time.
In 1944, Disney publishes their first Little Golden Book, Through the Picture Frame.
In the 1950s the company celebrates its 10th anniversary with 183 million books sold. The cost is still 25 cents. Except for Russia, the books are available throughout the world.
Prices raise slightly in the 60s, to 29 cents. Due to the popularity of Saturday morning cartoons, titles include favorites such as The Flintstones, Huckleberry Hound and Tom and Jerry.
Sesame Street titles join Little Golden Books in the 1970s. And the first Barbie title is published in 1974. The price per book is now 59 cents.
In 1982, Little Golden Books celebrates its 40th anniversary, with more than 800 million books sold. Cost per book rises to 89 cents. On November 20, 1986, the one billionth Little Golden Book is printed. The Poky Little Puppy becomes the best selling children’s book of all time.
By the 2000s, the company relaunches its most popular vintage books, due to consumer demand. Little Golden Books offers 1200 unique titles, priced at $2.99 each.
July 2013 sees the release of Star Wars Little Golden Books, with a Star Wars theme on the golden spines. Books are now $3.99 each. Random House publishes the New York Times bestseller, Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from a Little Golden Book, by Diane Muldrow.
Little Golden Books celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2017. There are 644 titles in print. Books sell for $4.99. The company continues to release new titles for today’s child. Penguin Random House is the current publisher.
A Childhood Tradition that Continues
I grew up reading Little Golden Books. My favorite titles were fairy tales and classics such as The Little Red Hen. When my family moved from Oklahoma to Missouri, in 1970, we sold our collection of books at a garage sale. Oh, how I wish I still had my childhood books!
My children grew up reading Little Golden Books as well. Their favorites included stories about animals, tie ins to television shows such Sesame Street and Pano the Train. I read The Boy with a Drum so many times that I memorized it. That book continued as an often requested read from my grandchildren. I can still quote most of the book from memory.
A New Home for My Little Golden Books
With the birth of my newest granddaughter, Finley Grace, it felt like time for the collection of books to go to a new home. I boxed up the Little Golden Books along with Dr. Seuss classics and paperback favorites such as The Berenstain Bears series.
My daughter Adriel graciously accepted those books and gave them a new home in the baby’s nursery. I’m so thrilled that Adriel and her husband Nate read to Finley daily and indeed began reading to her while she was still in the womb. At almost three months old, she loves books already.
My oldest child, daughter Elissa, recently showed me the copy of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Little Golden Book that she had just purchased. I admired it and asked if the book was for Finley. “Oh no,” she told me. “This is my book.”
That’s my girl. And that’s the continuing power of Little Golden Books.
Do you have a favorite title?
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