In a discussion with other readers on the Bob on Books Facebook page, the first book many of us remembered reading was a Little Golden Book. These cardboard cover books with lavish illustrations and the distinctive gold binding have been treasured by generations of children. One of the things children loved was that inside the front cover was a place where a child could write his or her name.
The book I remember as my first read was Scuffy the Tugboat written by Gertrude Crampton and illustrated by Tibor Gergeley. But I had a whole collection. I remember the Disney movie tie-ins of Dumbo and Bambi, Christmas stories like Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Mickey Mouse Goes Shopping, and The Night Before Christmas, and a Marian Potter authored book, The Little Red Caboose.
The series started in 1942 as the vision of Georges Duplaix, and the idea was to publish very inexpensive children’s books with gorgeous illustrations, sold at half of the 50 cent price of most children’s books at the time, and far less than the $2 to $3 price of some. Simon & Schuster first published the books and figured out that if they did print runs of 50,000 books, they could sell them at 25 cents. They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. In their first fifty years, ending in 1992, they sold 1.5 billion of these books!
Ownership of the Little Golden Books line has changed over the years, with the books currently being published by Random House. The amazing thing is that they are still being published and an edition of The Poky Little Puppy (the all-time bestselling Little Golden Book) being sold new today looks just the same as the one published in 1942. Tootle (another Gertrude Crampton story) that I loved reading our son in the late 1980’s was just the same as the one first published in 1945.
Little Golden Books featured children’s authors like Margaret Wise Brown, Janette Sebring Lowry (The Poky Little Puppy) and Kathryn Jackson, and illustrators like Richard Scarry and Garth Williams. Over the years the line expanded to include books about children’s concerns, like the first day at school, religious themes such as the Lord’s Prayer and tie-ins with Disney, Nickelodeon, and most recently Star Wars. Audio and video versions in record, tape, CD, and video have been created, and some toy lines. But the books remain the core product with Random House currently listing 590 titles.
Random House celebrated 75 years of Golden Books in 2017, creating a special website for the occasion. We’ve passed down my collection of Little Golden Books to my son. Some were falling apart from use. Whether the books are passed along or new ones purchased, there seems to be something quite wonderful when grandparents can share with grandchildren a book that looks just like the one they had as a child and cherish the bond of commonly remembered story and illustration.