Little Golden Books

Little Golden Books is a popular series of children’s books. You might recognize them from your childhood or maybe you read them to your kids – they have the iconic golden binding and tell many classic children’s stories. The eighth book in the series, The Poky PokylittlepuppyLittle Puppy, is the top-selling children’s book of all time. Many of the Little Golden Books have become bestsellers, including The Poky Little Puppy, Tootle, Scuffy the Tugboat, and The Little Red Hen. Several of the illustrators for the Little Golden Books later became staples within the picture book industry, including Corinne Malvern, Tibor Gergely, Gustaf Tenggren, Feodor Rojankovsky, Richard Scarry, Eloise Wilkin, and Garth Williams.

Lead of Artists and Writers Guild Inc., a division of Western Publishing, Georges Duplaix, in 1940 was tasked with developing new children’s books: Little Golden Books was the result. Duplaix had the idea to produce a colorful, more durable and affordable children’s book than those being published at that time which sold for $2 to $3.

Meanwhile, a shared printing plant made Western Publishing and Simon & Schuster develop a close relationship. In 1938, the first joint effort between Western and Simon & Schuster, A Children’s History, was published. With the help of Lucile Olge, Duplaix contacted Albert Leventhal, a vice president and sales manager at Simon & Schuster, and Leon Shimkin, also at Simon & Schuster, with his idea for Little Golden Books.

It was decided that twelve titles would be published  for simultaneous release in what was to be called the Little Golden Books Series. Each book would have 42 pages, 28 s-l1600 (45)printed in two-color, and 14 in four-color. The books would be staple-bound. The group originally discussed a 50-cent price for the books, but Western Publishing 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 be sold for 25 cents each. Three editions totaling 1.5 million books sold out within five months of publication in 1942.

The involvement of Lucy Sprague Mitchell, an educator and founder of Bank Street Nursery School in New York’s West Village, gave a big boost to the series. As a strong proponent of realistic children books, Mitchell created the Bank Street Writer’s Laboratory, whose works became the new 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 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.

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.

Golden Melody Books were introduced in the 1980s, thewe were Golden 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.

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.

s-l1600 (46)Random House acquired Little Golden Books in 2001 for about $85 million. At that point, nearly 15 million copies of The Poky Little Puppy had been sold, including copies in various languages. On August 25 2015, Little Golden Books adapted the first six installments of the Star Wars saga and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith became the first ever Little Golden Book in history to be based on a film that was rated PG-13 by the MPAA. 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 opened the door for further Little Golden Books that drew upon PG-13 rated licensed film properties, such as the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters, characters and storylines from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and even Jurassic Park.

Stop by the Little Golden Books’ website for an even more detailed timeline of the books.


Find a selection of Little Golden Books on our eBay site! 

Kick the Can

There are several simple games children play today that their Grandparents were backyard champs at – kickball, hide n’ seek, hopscotch; but one that seems frozen in the past is Kick the Can.  Remembered as a vintage game, not many children nowadays really know how to play.  You’d be an odd child out if you didn’t know how to play Kick the Can eighty years ago.  For those of us under the age of forty, I’ll lay out the rules:

The objective is simple.  Kick the can and don’t get caught!  A can is filled with rocks and set in the middle of the game area.  Like tag, or hide n’ seek, one player is designated “it” and the other players run and hide while the “it” player closes his eyes and counts.  When the “it” finds the hiders, he calls out their names and they must race him back to the can to kick it far into the air first.  If the hider beats the “it” person, he returns to hiding while the “it” retrieves the can, counts and begins searching again.  But if the “it” person wins the race to the can, the hider is sent to an allocated “jail” area, near the can.  Other players hiding may rush out to kick the can at any point, freeing the imprisoned players!  The game ends when “it” wins, capturing all the hiders, or when a hider kicks the can over.

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The origins of the game are like many antiquated practices, imprecise.  It is fondly remembered as a popular game during the Great Depression. Because of limited extracurricular resources and abundance of children in the neighborhood, it seemed only natural for kids to grab a paint can from the trash, fill it with rocks and participate in hours on end of unfacilitated playtime.  During these difficult economic times, the kids seemed to have the right idea – making something out of nothing.  Not requiring any designated materials or playing field, Kick the Can was the perfect pickup game that has been lost somewhere in oral teaching along the way.

Perhaps kids of today could take a lesson in unplanned playtime.  In his book “Children at Play: An American History (2007), Howard Chudacoff discusses the importance of unstructured play, referring to the early 20th century as the ‘golden age’ of kid’s free play.

At the turn of the 20th century as child labor decreased, kids had a lot of free time on their hands – freedom to play from dawn ’til dusk, to read comics and to explore their world in whatever way satisfied their fascinations.  However, with the increasing priority of education, extracurricular activities became less significant and more structured as adults realized their responsibility in nurturing a balanced growing person.  Adult involvement in free time inevitably led to more structured play, as adult-directed sports replaced pickup games.  Simultaneously, parents worried about their children playing with other neighborhood kids unsupervised, as parental control became a topic of concern.  Today, though we realize the need for children to play, society has entirely limited kids’ ability to play and explore in their own chosen ways.

Though antiquated, perhaps we could all learn from a little game of kick the can.  Like organized sports, these types of outdoor, movement-oriented games are beneficial for both the mind and body.  Next time you’re outside, give it a try!

Pioneers of Color Printing: The McLoughlin Bros., Inc.

The McLoughlin Bros., formed in 1828 in New York, made revolutionary moves in regards to color printing technologies. They printed many children’s books with this newer color method.

They specialized in retelling classic stories, often removing any material that they considered improper or offensive.

The company grew as a family business, first run by John McLoughlin, Jr. and soon joined by his younger brother Edmund McLoughlin as a business partner.

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At the start of the business, they continually experimented with methods of illustration and their printing process. They tried hand stenciling to zinc etching to chromolithography, a method for making multi-color prints.

Eventually they opened a color printing factory which employed up to 75 artists. The company had established chromolithographs as their printing method of choice. The company moved their office location in New York a number of times through the years.

Inside pages of illustration from "The Old Woman and Her Pig" by McLoughlin Bros., Inc.

Inside pages of illustration from “The Old Woman and Her Pig

Unfortunately, the company founder John McLoughlin Jr.’s death in 1905 brought hardship to the company. It sorely missed his business and artistic leadership.

In 1920, Milton Bradley bought McLoughlin Bros., Inc. The McLoughlin branch still continued production of books and games (minus a pause in production during the WWII years). Through the years, other companies bought the McLoughlin trademark. The company’s name finally dropped from print in the 1970s.

Today, collectors express plenty of interest towards McLoughlin Bros. books and games as well as the Mcloughlin wood engraving blocks. They’re hot commodities in the collecting world.

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Source: American Antiquarian

Kate Greenaway, Famous Children’s Book Illustrator

Kate Greenaway (1846-1901) illustrated and wrote children’s books in the 19th century. Among Randolph Caldecott and Walter Crane, she’s considered one of the best illustrators of her time.

Greenaway’s parents encouraged her artistic interests and she had won a number of awards by age seventeen, thus cementing her successful future career.

Greenaway illustrated over 30 books. Most of her illustrations include happy boys and girls dressed in Regency and late eighteenth century fashions, out enjoying themselves in nature. Their clothes, though inspired by those eras, were all Greenaway’s own designs. They gained popularity even among fashion circles for their charming nostalgia. The company Liberty of London even used Greenaway’s designs as inspiration for actual clothes.

Polly by Kate Greenaway

“Polly”

During her career, Greenaway’s fan base extended far beyond her home country of England, including a large fan base in America.

She even got a medal named for her. In 1955 the Kate Greenaway Medal was established for exceptional illustrations in children’s books – not to be confused with the Caldecott Medal, which honors children’s picture books as a whole.

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This particular book by Greenaway, titled Ring-Round-A-Rosy, is done in the typical style of Greenaway’s, showing cheerful children playing and enjoying nature. The book’s publisher is The Saalfield Publishing Company, and this edition is a part of their rare muslin books, built to last through the wear and tear of young readers.

Many of the books that Greenaway illustrated were perfect for young readers, but their timelessness appeals to adults as well, and her illustrations still charm today.

Beatrix Potter, Beloved Children’s Author

The beloved children’s book The Tale of Peter Rabbit is well-known the world over, and has been ever since its publication in 1902. Its universal themes still apply today and charm both children and adults in its quaint tales of country life.

Author Beatrix Potter had an inspiring life for a woman born in the Victorian era. She developed her own hobbies enough to gain an independent living from them.

Beatrix holding her pet dog.

Beatrix holding her pet dog.

It all starts with Peter Rabbit’s origin. At fourteen years old, Beatrix bought a rabbit named Benjamin Bouncer. Three years later when Benjamin died, she bought another rabbit and named it Peter. In the same year, Beatrix wrote a letter to her late governess’s son Noel, telling an illustrated tale of Peter Rabbit for the first time.

At age thirty-five Beatrix privately published The Tale of Peter Rabbit for her family and friends. Beatrix had also sent the manuscript to six publishers, but each of them rejected her. However, the London firm of Frederick Warne & Co. finally accepted the manuscript and published it in 1902. It was instantly popular and sparked a total of twenty-three “little Tales”, all published by Warne publishing.

A portrait of Beatrix

A portrait of Beatrix

Beatrix was a clever businesswoman and used her stories to market products to the public. As early as 1903 she made and patented a Peter Rabbit doll, followed by other merchandise such as painting books, board games, wallpaper, figurines, baby blankets and china tea sets. From all this, Beatrix earned an independent income as well as profits from her publisher.

In 1905, Beatrix and Norman Warne, one of the brothers of the publishing house who had worked with Beatrix on her stories, got engaged against her parents’ wishes. However, it was not to be; Warne died of leukemia a month after his proposal. Beatrix threw herself into her work as a distraction.

Tale_of_peter_rabbit_12When she earned enough money from her books and received a legacy from an aunt, Beatrix bought Hill Top Farm in 1905, a property in the tiny village the Lake District in England. Beatrix’s interest in conservation first developed during her visit to the Lake District when she was sixteen and the local vicar impressed his views of the need for conservation on young Beatrix.

Esthwaite Water, which Beatrix called her “favorite lake” in England went for sale on eBay this year for 300,000 pounds. No word on any takers.

Chidlow Pond at Hill Top Farm.

Chidlow Pond at Hill Top Farm.

When Beatrix had earned enough money to buy farmland, love returned to her life. The property dealer, a local man named William Heelis, helped her with acquiring property and her efforts of conservation and they gradually developed feelings for each other. Beatrix’s parents once again opposed the match, but this time she ignored them and married William in October 1913. They remained together until Beatrix’s death in 1943.

Following Beatrix’s wishes, almost all her property at Hill Top was left to the National Trust, and fans of her work can now visit the property and see the settings for so many of her stories. Beatrix was also a huge conservationist and she is credited with preserving the land for what is now the Lake District National Park.

How Randolph Caldecott Influenced Book Award History

The Caldecott Medal: It graces the covers of beautiful, whimsical, and sometimes downright bizarre-looking children’s books.

Every year, notable children’s books illustrators receive receive the Caldecott Medal. Some recent winners are This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, and The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney. Each of these show originality, creativity and technical know-how in the field of illustration.

But what is the history of the Caldecott medal? When did we decide to recognize notable illustrators as well as authors?

Caldecott

It all starts with Randolph Caldecott, a popular illustrator in the mid-nineteenth century.

At the high point in Caldecott’s career, every Christmas for eight years Caldecott released two books priced at a shilling each, which children would eagerly anticipate. Think the nineteenth century equivalent of Harry Potter midnight releases, without the kids in wizard robes and oversized glasses.

Caldecott also illustrated more than children’s books; he drew comics, painted with watercolor, and illustrated novels and travel books. How’s that for a diverse resume?

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Caldecott’s most successful and famous books include The House that Jack Built and Nursery Rhymes which reached 867,000 copies by 1884, by which time he was famous all over the world.

But another of Caldecott’s illustrations would live on to be even more popular: the cover of The Diverting History of John Gilpin.

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In 1937 the Newbery Medal existed to honor children’s books. But soon, people began to realize that wasn’t quite enough.

That’s when Frederic G. Melcher stepped in to recognize great illustrators. And guess whose work stood high enough to represent all great children’s book illustrations? That’s right: Randolph Caldecott.

The American Library Association said “Why haven’t we done this before?” and quickly accepted Melcher’s proposal.

Caldecott’s illustration showing a man on a galloping horse from John Gilpin still graces the Caldecott medal for outstanding children’s book illustrations, and it’s a picture that has become recognizable to book lovers throughout the world. And that’s how Caldecott made history.

What’s your favorite book that has been awarded the Caldecott Medal?