13. Little Golden Books

Patrick Cox, H-NET President-Elect and Editor's picture


Contributor: Sarah Fischer

PhD Candidate, Dept. of Curriculum and Instruction

Pennsylvania State University

If there were ever an icon of American childhood culture to be found in the history of children’s book publishing, it would be the Little Golden Book.  The history embodied by the Little Golden Book tradition parallels the evolving post-World War II ideals for American childhood. Debuting twelve initial titles in 1942, Simon & Schuster along with the Artists and Writers Guild and Western Printing Company introduced high quality, sturdy and affordable books into the landscapes of all American childhoods, not just the privileged ones. (Marcus, 2007) One of these original Little Golden Books was The Poky Little Puppy, which held the honor of being the bestselling children’s book of all time until J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series surpassed it in hardcover sales in the late 1990s. (All-time bestselling children’s books, 2001) 

Though Little Golden Books were met with some trepidation by experts in the literary world who winced at the thought of children’s books being sold at the cash registers at five-and-dime stories (Marcus, 2007), they have remained steadfast on home, school and library bookshelves for almost seventy-five years.  (Compton-Lilly, 2009) Perhaps it is their distinguished foil spines or their proprietary name plates on the inside front covers that so successfully invite readers into the fictional landscapes contained within their covers.  It could also be the intertextuality flowing from one Little Golden Book cover to the next, inducting young children into an accessible culture of reading. 

In 2013, Diane Muldrow, an editor for Little Golden Books, connected the nostalgic books to identity in adulthood with her popular book Everything I Need to Know I learned from a Little Golden Book. (Everything I need to know I learned from a Little Golden Book, 2014) The legacy of Little Golden Books has also been celebrated in recent special exhibitions in the National Museum of American History (Little Golden Books, 2014), the New York Public Library (The ABC of It, 2014) and the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature. (Golden legacy: Original art from 65 years of Golden Books, n.d.)  Little Golden Books have long endured as an endeared repertoire of touchstone texts in Americans’ collective and personal histories as readers.  (Fischer, 2014)



"The ABC of it: Why children’s books matter." (2014). Retrieved October 5, 2014, from http://www.nypl.org/events/exhibitions/abc-it

Compton-Lilly, C. (2009). "Listening to families over time:  Seven lessons learned about literacy in families." Language Arts, 86(6), 449–457.

Everything I need to know I learned from a Little Golden Book. (2014). Retrieved October 5, 2014, from http://www.randomhousekids.com/books/detail/218446-everything-i-need-to-know-i-learned-from-a-little-golden-book?isbn=9780307977618#.VDLcUVb1bN5

Fischer, S. (2014) A child, a crayon, and a Little Golden Book: Contextualizing pre-conventional marginalia to see young children as annotators.  Manuscript submitted for publication.  

"Golden legacy: Original art from 65 years of Golden Books." (n.d.). Retrieved October 5, 2014, from http://nccil.org/experience/artists/goldenbooks/index.htm

"Little Golden Books." (2014). Retrieved October 5, 2014, from http://americanhistory.si.edu/documentsgallery/exhibitions/goldenbooks/

Marcus, L. (2007). Golden legacy : How Golden Books won children’s hearts, changed publishing forever, and became an American icon along the way. New York: Golden Books/Random House.

Muldrow, D. (2013). Everything I need to know I learned from a LIttle Golden Book. New York: Golden Books.

"All-time bestselling children’s books." (2001). Retrieved October 5, 2014, from http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20011217/28595-all-time-bestselling-children-s-books.html


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