The Story Behind Little Golden Books

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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 Story Behind Little Golden Books title meme

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.

The Story Behind Little Golden Books red hen
The Story Behind Little Golden Books – The Little Red Hen

 

Little Golden Books Timeline

1940s

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.

1950s

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.

1960s

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.

1970s

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.

1980s

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.

Click photo to order this title from Amazon.

2000s

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.

2010s

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 recent release, available from Amazon. Click photo to order.

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.

The Story Behind Little Golden Books vintage
The Story Behind Little Golden Books – these are vintage now and well worn from years of reading

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?

The Story Behind Little Golden Books bookcase
The Story Behind Little Golden Books – a new home for the books

Check out more Little Golden Books from Amazon:

 


 

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54 Replies to “The Story Behind Little Golden Books”

  1. This is so interesting.. I have seen and read these little books for years.. thank you for sharing the history of this inspiring company that focuses on helping children to learn!

  2. This is so cool. I am thoroughly enjoying passing our family heirlooms to my daughter now that she has a home and family.

  3. Cindy! Holy crap you just took me back! I remember having so many of these. I think I even had the little red hen one too. So nostalgic and so cool to see them still thriving, especially with that important book on RBG <3

  4. This story made me smile. It took me back to my childhood where I had a large collection of these books. To this day, I’m an avid reader and my love for reading began as a small child with books such as these.

  5. I love the Little Golden Books when I was growing up and read many to my kids. Pokey Little Puppy was one of my favorites as well as Little Red Hen. Loved these books and so glad that they are still making great books today!

  6. I have all three of the first three prints for our children. These books are a staple in their library! The Poky Little Puppy was my favorite when I was little, but I also enjoyed a lot of Richard Scarry.

  7. What an amazing story! Thank you for sharing!! I grew up with the “Little Golden Books” and read them to my children who read them to my grandchildren!

  8. We love Golden Books and just used The Little Red Hen in my son’s preschool project. We still have my husband’s Golden Books from when he was a child. They were 69 cents! Lots of classics in those titles!

  9. I absolutely love these books – and love them just a bit more knowing more of their history! This is why they will never make the donation box!

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