Little Golden Books

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Little Golden Books
A typical example of the Little Golden Books logo.

Author many others
Illustrator many others
CountryUnited States
Media typehardcover

Little Golden Books is an American series of children's books, published since 1942. The Poky Little Puppy , the eighth release in the series, is the top-selling children's book of all time in the United States. [1] Many other Little Golden Books have become bestsellers, [1] including Tootle , Scuffy the Tugboat , The Little Red Hen , and Doctor Dan the Bandage Man .


Several of its illustrators later became influential within the children's book industry, including Corinne Malvern, Tibor Gergely, Gustaf Tenggren, Feodor Rojankovsky, Richard Scarry, Eloise Wilkin, and Garth Williams. Many books in the Little Golden Books series deal with nature, science, Bible stories, nursery rhymes, and fairy tales. Christmas titles are published every year.

Some Little Golden Books and related products have featured popular characters from other media, such as Cartoon Network, Disney, Looney Tunes , The Muppets , Sesame Street , Sonic the Hedgehog , Barbie , Power Rangers , Thomas the Tank Engine , and others. Film, television, and movie properties have been particularly popular source material. Hopalong Cassidy, Cheyenne, Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Captain Kangaroo, Mister Rogers, and Donny and Marie Osmond have appeared in Little Golden Books. The line has also published occasional biographies; examples include Betty White, Dolly Parton and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The series started with publishing firm Simon & Schuster; Western Printing and Lithographing Company in Racine, Wisconsin was Simon & Schuster's partner in the Little Golden Books venture, with Western handling print operations. Ownership and control of the series have changed several times since; today, Penguin Random House is its current publisher.

Despite changes in detail, the Little Golden Books maintain a distinctive appearance. A copy of The Poky Little Puppy bought today is essentially the same as one printed in 1942. Both are readily recognizable as Little Golden Books. At the time of the series' golden anniversary in 1992, Golden Books claimed that a billion and a half Little Golden Books had been sold. [2] Although the Little Golden Books have remained the backbone of the product line, the enterprise that produced them has created a variety of children's books in various forms of media, including records, tapes, videos, and toys and games. Some titles have appeared in several different formats (including "A Golden Book").


Little Red Hen cover TheLittleRedHen.png
Little Red Hen cover

Georges Duplaix, who in 1940 was head of Artists and Writers Guild Inc. (a division of Western Publishing), first came up with this idea when he created new books for children. Meanwhile, a shared printing plant led Western and Simon & Schuster to develop a close relationship. In 1938, Western and Simon & Schuster released their first joint creation, A Children’s History. [3]

Duplaix had the idea to produce a colorful children's book that was more durable and affordable than those being published at that time, which often sold for US$2 to $3 (approximately $40 to $70 now). With the help of his fellow Guild colleague Lucile Olge, Duplaix contacted Albert Leventhal and Leon Shimkin with his idea (Albert and Leon work for Simon & Schuster, and Albert serves as the company's vice president and sales manager).

The group decided to publish twelve titles for simultaneous release in what was to be called the Little Golden Books Series. Each book would have 42 pages, 28 printed in two-color, and 14 in four-color. The books would be staple-bound. The group first discussed a 50-cent price for the books, but Western did not want to compete with other 50-cent books already on the market. The group calculated that if the print run for each title was 50,000 copies instead of 25,000, the books could affordably sell for 25 cents each (similar to $5 now).

Mary Reed, Ph.D., a professor at the Teachers College, Columbia University, served as initial editor of the series.

The first 12 titles were printed in September 1942 and released to stores in October: [4] [5]

  1. Three Little Kittens , by Marie Simchow Stern
  2. Bedtime Stories, illus. Gustaf Tenggren
  3. Mother Goose , by Phyllis Fraser, illus. Gertrude E. Espenscheid
  4. Prayers for Children, by Rachel Taft Dixon
  5. The Little Red Hen , illus. Rudolf Freund
  6. Nursery Songs, by Leah Gale, illus. Corinne Malvern
  7. The Alphabet from A to Z, by Leah Gale, illus. Vivienne Blake and Richard Peck
  8. The Poky Little Puppy , by Janette Sebring Lowrey, illus. Gustaf Tenggren
  9. The Golden Book of Fairy Tales, by Winfield Scott Hoskins
  10. Baby's Book of Objects
  11. The Animals of Farmer Jones, by Leah Gale, illus. Richard Scarry
  12. This Little Piggy and Other Counting Rhymes, by Phyllis Cerf Wagner, illus. Roberta Harris Pfafflin Petty

Three editions totaling 1.5 million books sold out within five months of publication in 1942.

Simon & Schuster editor Dorothy A. Bennett also worked with Duplaix on the Little Golden Books. Bennett became the editor of the franchise, producing books by such authors and illustrators as Margaret Wise Brown, Clement Hurd, Edith Thacher Hurd, and Garth Williams. [6] [7] Bennett authored several Golden Books, [8] and introduced some of the first recorded books for children with Little Golden Records in 1948. [9]

The series underwent an expansion when Lucy Sprague Mitchell (educator and founder of Bank Street Nursery School now Bank Street College of Education) joined. A strong supporter of realistic children's literature, Mitchell created the Bank Street Writer's Laboratory. Works coming from this institution became the new basis for the Little Golden Book series, with characters and situations often inspired by the very locale of the Bank School.

As historian Leonard S. Marcus writes:

Mitchell had been in discussions with Georges Duplaix and Lucille Ogle as early as 1943 about the possibility of a special series of Little Golden Books written by members of Bank Street Writer’s Laboratory. Wartime shortages had delayed the launch of the series until 1946. The first two titles appeared that year: Lucy Sprague Mitchell's The New House in the Forest, illustrated by Eloise Wilkins, and The Taxi That Hurried, coauthored by Irma Simonton Black and Jessie Stanton, with illustrations by Tibor Gergely. [10]

In 1958, Simon & Schuster sold its interest in Little Golden Books to Western Publishing. The price of Little Golden Books rose to 29¢ in 1962.

Western introduced a line of Big Little Golden Books for slightly older children aged five and up. Some titles from this series range from brand new stories (such as The House That Had Enough) to reprints (such as The Monster at the End of This Book ).

In the 1980s, Golden Books introduced Golden Melody Books. Titles from this series included a long-lasting electronic chip that played music when readers open those books. Songs featured in this series range from popular children's songs such as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, to songs from children's TV and family movies including People in Your Neighborhood from Sesame Street and Heigh-Ho from Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

In the year 2000, Encore Software produced a series of "Little Golden Books" titles for CD ROM, including The Poky Little Puppy , Mother Goose , Jack and the Beanstalk , The Velveteen Rabbit , Tootle , and The Saggy Baggy Elephant . These six individual titles were some of the first major software releases to be produced entirely in Macromedia Flash.

In 2001, Random House acquired Little Golden Books for about $85 million. [11] At that point, nearly 15 million copies of The Poky Little Puppy had been sold, including copies in various languages. [12]

In 2015, with the release of Little Golden Book adaptations of the first six installments of the Star Wars saga on August 25, the Little Golden Book adaptation of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith became the first-ever Little Golden Book in history to come from a film that was rated PG-13 by the MPAA. [13] Months later, on April 12, 2016, a Little Golden Book adaptation of Star Wars: The Force Awakens , the next film in the saga, also rated PG-13, was released. This release opened the door for further Little Golden Books that drew upon PG-13 rated licensed film properties; some adaptations in this criterion include the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters, characters and storylines from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Jurassic Park . [14] [15]

In 2023, a biography about singer-songwriter Taylor Swift became the fastest-selling in the series' history, selling one million copies in seven months. [16]

Writers and illustrators

Many popular authors and illustrators have worked on Little Golden Books and related products, including:

Contemporary art

The Golden Book Gown The Golden Book Gown by Ryan Jude Novelline.jpg
The Golden Book Gown

In 2010, Ryan Jude Novelline revealed the "Golden Book Gown", a "one-of-a-kind fairytale-inspired gown almost entirely from Golden Books...[featuring] a 22,000-square-inch page-turning skirt and a form-fitting bodice made from the spines". [17]


In 2015, during the Diamond celebration at Disneyland , the Disney Imagineers went to bring the Little Golden Book story, Little Man at Disneyland from 1955 to life by featuring a recreation of Patrick Begorra's home in a tree trunk somewhere in Adventureland at the park if visitors were to keep an eye out for it.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Western Publishing</span> Firm responsible for publishing the Little Golden Books

Western Publishing, also known as Western Printing and Lithographing Company, was a Racine, Wisconsin, firm responsible for publishing the Little Golden Books. Its Golden Books Family Entertainment division also produced children's books and family-related entertainment products. The company had editorial offices in New York City and Los Angeles, California. Western Publishing became Golden Books Family Entertainment in 1996. Little Golden Books remains as an imprint of Penguin Random House. Golden Guides and Golden Field Guides are published by St. Martin's Press.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Picture book</span> Book with images at least as important as words

A picture book combines visual and verbal narratives in a book format, most often aimed at young children. With the narrative told primarily through text, they are distinct from comics, which do so primarily through sequential images.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Margaret Wise Brown</span> American writer of childrens books (1910–1952)

Margaret Wise Brown was an American writer of children's books, including Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny, both illustrated by Clement Hurd. She has been called "the laureate of the nursery" for her achievements.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Simon & Schuster</span> American publishing company

Simon & Schuster LLC is an American publishing company owned by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. It was founded in New York City on January 2, 1924, by Richard L. Simon and M. Lincoln Schuster. Along with Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins and Macmillan Publishers, Simon & Schuster is considered one of the 'Big Five' English language publishers. As of 2017 Simon & Schuster was the third largest publisher in the United States, publishing 2,000 titles annually under 35 different imprints.

Margaret Cecile "Peggy" Parish was an American writer known best for the children's book series and fictional character Amelia Bedelia. Parish was born in Manning, South Carolina, attended the University of South Carolina, and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. She worked as a teacher in Oklahoma, Kentucky, and in New York. She taught at the Dalton School in Manhattan for 15 years and published her first children's book while teaching third grade there. She authored over 30 books, which had sold 7 million copies at the time of her death.

<i>The Poky Little Puppy</i> 1942 book by Janette Sebring Lowrey

The Poky Little Puppy is a children's book written by Janette Sebring Lowrey and illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren. It was first published in 1942 as one of the first twelve books in the Simon & Schuster series Little Golden Books. The copyright was renewed in October 1969.

<i>Tootle</i> Book by Gertrude Crampton

Tootle (ISBN 0307020975) is a children's book written by Gertrude Crampton and illustrated by Tibor Gergely in 1945. It is part of Simon & Schuster's Little Golden Books series. As of 2001, it was the all-time third best-selling hardcover children's book in English, in the USA.

Alice Rose Provensen and Martin Provensen were an American couple who illustrated more than 40 children's books together, 19 of which they also wrote and edited. According to Alice, "we were a true collaboration. Martin and I really were one artist."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Feodor Stepanovich Rojankovsky</span> Russian painter

Feodor Stepanovich Rojankovsky, also known as Rojan, was a Russian émigré illustrator. He is well known both for children's book illustration and for erotic art. He won the 1956 Caldecott Medal for U.S. picture book illustration from the American Library Association, recognizing Frog Went A-Courtin' by John Langstaff.

Aladdin Paperbacks is one of several children's-book imprints owned by Simon & Schuster. It was established by Jean E. Karl at Atheneum Books where she was the founding director of the children's department (1961). Atheneum merged with or was acquired by Scribner's in 1978, then Macmillan in 1984, before the acquisition by Simon & Schuster in 1994.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gustaf Tenggren</span> Swedish-American illustrator (1896–1970)

Gustaf Adolf Tenggren was a Swedish-American illustrator and animator. He is known for his Arthur Rackham-influenced fairy-tale style and use of silhouetted figures with caricatured faces. Tenggren was a chief illustrator for The Walt Disney Company in the late 1930s, in what has been called the Golden Age of American animation, when animated feature films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Bambi and Pinocchio were produced.

Little Golden Book Land is an animated syndicated special produced by DIC Animation City and Western Publishing Company in 1989. The special stars many popular characters from the Little Golden Books, a beloved children's book series. It was possibly a pilot episode for an animated TV show that never came to fruition. Its full title is Little Golden Book Land: The Great Harbor Rescue.

<i>Scuffy the Tugboat</i>

Scuffy the Tugboat is a children's book written by Gertrude Crampton and illustrated by Tibor Gergely. The book was first published in 1946 as part of the Little Golden Books series.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Golden Book Video</span> Videos by Western Publishing, 1985–1996

Golden Book Video was a line of children/family animated and live-action videos marketed by Western Publishing, which began during the holiday season of 1985. They featured characters and stories from Western's print publications, such as Little Golden Books, and were originally released on VHS video cassette for under $10.

<i>Best Word Book Ever</i> Book by Richard Scarry

Best Word Book Ever by Richard Scarry was published in 1963 and became a best-selling children's book. Scarry had been illustrating children's books since 1950, but this was his first as both author and illustrator. The book also marked the beginning of the author's work on the "Best Ever" series. The original edition contains over 1,400 labelled pictures and the book sold over seven million copies in 12 years. The word book is designed to entertain children while teaching them words and numbers. It is divided into subjects on each pair of pages. Subjects range from sports to houses, with examples from all over the world. The pages have a small amount of text, which often challenge the reader to find something on the page. The characters are all anthropomorphic animals, often cats, bears, rabbits and mice, but many other animals are also used. The art for Best Word Book Ever was first drawn in, then painted in, which was by that time Scarry's normal method.

Poky and Friends is a series of animated videos and books produced by Varga TVC Productions and Golden Books Family Entertainment that ran from 1998 until 2003.

Janette Sebring Lowrey was an American children's writer, best known for the book The Poky Little Puppy. As of 2001, The Poky Little Puppy was the single all-time best-selling hardcover children's book in the U.S., having sold nearly 15 million copies. While the book has outsold many other famous books such as Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham, Lowrey herself remained in relative obscurity until her death.

<i>The Shy Little Kitten</i> Childrens book by Cathleen Schurr, published 1946

The Shy Little Kitten is a famous Little Golden Book written by Cathleen Schurr and illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren, noted for his illustrations featured in fellow Little Golden Book The Poky Little Puppy. Originally published in 1946, the storybook has earned a reputation as one of the most iconic, classic Little Golden Books ever written and as a popular children's picture book.

Nina Bourne (1916–2010) was a publishing executive for more than 70 years for both Simon & Schuster and Alfred A. Knopf. She was known for her marketing and advertising campaigns for many books including Catch-22 and the Eloise series of children's books.

Jane Werner Watson, born Elsa Jane Werner was an American children's author. She also wrote under the names Elsa Jane Werner Watson, Jane Werner, Annie North Bedford, Monica Hill, Elsa Ruth Nast, W. K. Jasner, and A. N. Bedford.


Sources consulted


  1. 1 2 Roback, Diane, ed. (Dec 17, 2001), "All-Time Bestselling Children's Books: A listing of hardcovers that have sold 750,000 copies and paperbacks that have topped the one million copy mark over the years", Publishers Weekly, compiled by Debbie Hochman Turvey.
  2. "Fifty Years of Books 'For the Masses.'" Publishers' Weekly. 239 (28: 28–31). June 22, 1992.
  3. "Western Publishing Group, Inc. History". International Directory of Company Histories. St. James Press. 1996. Archived from the original on July 24, 2012. Retrieved August 12, 2015 via Funding Universe.
  4. Santi, Steve (April 29, 2009). "Once Upon a Time: The History of Little Golden Books". Antique Trader . Archived from the original on August 27, 2015. Retrieved August 11, 2015.
  5. "Announcing Little Golden Books." Publishers' Weekly. September 19, 1942. Pages 991-994.
  6. Santi, Steve (2005-08-05). Warman's Little Golden Books Field Guide: Values and Identification. Krause Publications. p. 19. ISBN   0896892654.
  7. Stanton, Joseph (1993-01-01). "Review of Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon". Biography. 16 (3): 276–278. doi:10.1353/bio.2010.0391. JSTOR   23539995. S2CID   161677858.
  8. "WorldCat, author Dorothy A. Bennett". OCLC. Retrieved 2016-04-09.
  9. Cunningham, Virginia (1948-01-01). "Other Publications". Notes. 6 (1). Music Library Association: 167–170. doi:10.2307/891519. JSTOR   891520.
  10. Marcus, Leonard S. Minders of Make-Believe: Idealists, Entrepreneurs, and the Shaping of American Children's Literature (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008).
  11. "Random House Lands Golden Book Assets." Publishers' Weekly. 248(33):13& 23. August 20, 2001.
  12. Roback, Diane; Britton, Jason, eds. (December 17, 2001). "All-Time Bestselling Children's Books". Publishers Weekly . 248 (51). Archived from the original on January 15, 2012. Retrieved June 27, 2011.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  13. Parrish, Robin (21 July 2015). "Little Golden Books Are Disneyfying All 6 'Star Wars' Movies". TechTimes. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  14. Liszewski, Anddrew (22 June 2016). "These Ghostbusters Little Golden Books Are Who Ya Gonna Call For a Bedtime Story". Gizmodo. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  15. Frost, AJ (27 April 2018). "Breaking Down & Rebuilding Pop Culture Worlds with Arie Kaplan". ComicsBeat (Interview). Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  16. Nguyen, Sophia (December 23, 2023). "Taylor Swift: A Little Golden Book hits a sales milestone" . The Washington Post. Retrieved December 24, 2023.
  17. Diane Pham, "High Fashion as Eco-Friendly Child's Play" Archived 2012-10-03 at the Wayback Machine , Chevrolet News, 10/1/2012