When the Little Golden Books were launched in 1942 at 25 cents each, they changed publishing history. For the first time, children’s books were high quality and low priced. They were available to almost all children, not just a privileged few. Little Golden Books were designed to be sturdy (a new concept), delightfully illustrated, and to be sold not only in bookstores, but department stores and other chains (another new concept).
Little Golden Books were an instant success story, even though World War II was on and paper shortages loomed. Five months after the launch, 1.5 million copies had been printed, and Little Golden Books were in their third printing.
Since then, over two billion Little Golden Books have reached the hands of children all over the world. Who hasn't heard of The Poky Little Puppy, star of the bestselling Little Golden Book of all? It has sold well over 15 million copies worldwide, in many different languages. Tootle the Train, The Saggy Baggy Elephant, The Shy Little Kitten, The Little Red Caboose, The Tawny Scrawny Lion, and Scuffy the Tugboat soon followed, to become household names.
Little Golden Books have mirrored children’s popular culture over the years, having featured Lassie, Raggedy Ann, Uncle Wiggily, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Howdy Doody, Annie Oakley, Captain Kangaroo, Bozo the Clown, Gene Autrey, The Lone Ranger, Smokey Bear, Disney, Warner Brothers, Hanna Barbera, Sesame Street, Pokemon, Between the Lions characters, Mister Rogers, Barney, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Underdog, Peter Cottontail, Barbie, and others.
Many famous writers and illustrators created Little Golden Books, notably Margaret Wise Brown, author of Goodnight Moon (Harper). Her Little Golden Books were often illustrated by Garth Williams, most famous for his illustrations for Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and the Little House series. Richard Scarry began his career at Golden Books and did most of his most famous books here, from Little Golden Books to his beloved oversized books Cars and Trucks and Things that Go, and Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever! Eloise Wilkin, famous for her stunning paintings of cherubic children, illustrated dozens of Little Golden Books. Caldecott medalists James Marshall, Tibor Gergely, Leonard Weisgard, Alice and Martin Provensen, and Trina Schart Hyman have illustrated Little Golden Books.Today, Little Golden Books are icons. The Smithsonian Institution includes Little Golden Books and artwork in its Division of Cultural History.