Little Golden Books is a popular series of children's books. By 2001, nearly 15 million copies of The Poky Little Puppy had been sold, including copies in various languages.
The first 12 Little Golden Book titles were published on October 1, 1942: 1.Three Little Kittens 2.Bedtime Stories 3.Mother Goose 4.Prayers for Children 5.The Little Red Hen 6.Nursery Songs 7.The Alphabet from A to Z 8.The Poky Little Puppy 9.The Golden Book of Fairy Tales 10.Baby's Book of Objects 11.The Animals of Farmer Jones 12.This Little Piggy and Other Counting Rhymes
The books which initially sold for 25¢ (rising to 29¢ in 1962), were published by Simon & Schuster in cooperation with the Artist and Writers Guild, Inc. headed by Georges Duplaix. Duplaix had initially conceptualized the Little Golden Books series, assisted by Lucille Ogle, and fleshed it out in conversations with officials at Simon & Schuster. Mary Reed, Ph.D., a professor at the Teachers College of Columbia University, served as initial editor of the series.
A big boost to the series came with the involvement of Lucy Sprague Mitchell, an educator and founder of Bank Street Nursery School in West Village, Manhattan that later became the Bank Street College of Education. A strong proponent of realistic children books, Mitchell created the Bank Street Writer’s Laboratory whose works became the basis for the Little Golden Book series, with characters and situations that were often inspired by the very neighborhood where the Bank School was located.
As 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.
Western Printing and Lithographing Company in Racine, Wisconsin was Simon & Schuster's partner in the Little Golden Books venture. Western handled the actual printing. In 1958, Simon & Schuster sold its interest in Little Golden Books to Western.
Ownership and control of the series has changed several times since. In 2001, Random House acquired Golden Books for about $85 million.
Although the Little Golden Books have remained the backbone of the product line, the enterprise that produced the Little Golden Books has created a variety of children's books in various formats including records, tapes, videos, and even toys and games. Some titles have appeared in several different formats (including but not limited to "A Golden Book").
Many popular authors and illustrators have worked on Little Golden Books and related products including: Sheilah Beckett Mary Blair Tibor Gergely Lucy Sprague Mitchell Corinne Malvern Jim McDermott Ann McGovern Elizabeth Orton Jones Alice Provensen and Martin Provensen Seymour Reit Feodor Stepanovich Rojankovsky Patricia and Richard Scarry Charles Spain Verral Bob Staake Gustaf Tenggren Jane Werner Watson Eloise Wilkin Garth Williams Margaret Wise Brown Herbert Zim
Although the details have changed over the years, the Little Golden Books have maintained 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 golden anniversary, Golden Books claimed that a billion and a half Little Golden Books had been sold.
Some Little Golden Books and related products have featured popular children's icons from other media, e.g. Sesame Street, the Muppets, Disney, Looney Tunes, Barbie, Power Rangers, etc. Television and movie tie-ins have been particularly popular. Over the years Hopalong Cassidy, Cheyenne, Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Captain Kangaroo, Mister Rogers, and even Donny and Marie Osmond have appeared in Little Golden Books.
In the 1980s, Golden Books introduced Golden Melody Books that included a long-lasting electronic chip that played music every time the book was opened. Titles included popular children's songs such as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and songs from children's TV and movies including People in Your Neighborhood from Sesame Street and Heigh Ho from Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Many have dealt with nature and science, Bible stories, nursery rhyme, and fairy tales. Christmas titles are popular every year. That many old titles remain in print may show the strong nostalgia appeal of Little Golden Books.
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. They appeared in Time Magazine as part of an article entitled "How to Raise a Superkid".