If you were a fan of “The Poky Little Puppy” and “Mother Goose” growing up, you might be curious to learn about the history behind these sweet children’s books.
The beloved titles were part of a line called Little Golden Books created in 1942 through a partnership between the New York publishing firm Simon & Schuster, the Artists and Writers Guild and the Western Printing and Lithographing Company, according to Penguin Random House, which currently publishes the books.
In the early 1940s, children’s books typically sold for between $2 and $3, a price that was too steep for many families with young kids.
But George Duplaix, who led the Artists and Writers Guild at the time, wanted to make reading more accessible to children. He set out to develop lavishly illustrated and sturdy children’s books that would be affordable to most families.
In the beginning, Little Golden Books cost just $0.25. The first Little Golden Books were published in September 1942 with memorable titles such as “Three Little Kittens,” “The Little Red Hen” and “The Alphabet from A to Z.”
This new series reflected a shift in thinking about how, where and what children should read, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, which hosted an exhibit about the Little Golden Books in 2013 and 2014.
“When the Little Golden Books were launched in 1942 at 25 cents each, they changed publishing history,” according to Penguin Random House. “For the first time, children’s books were of high quality and low priced. They were available to almost all children, not just a privileged few.”
The books were designed to be sold in places where children and families already shopped, such as department stores and drugstores, not just bookstores. Five months after the line launched, the publisher had printed 1.5 million copies.
“The Poky Little Puppy” is an all-time classic, selling more than 15 million copies worldwide in dozens of languages. It’s also the best-selling Little Golden Books title.
These books were so successful that Simon & Schuster decided to launch a new division called Sandpiper Press. The company selected Duplaix to be the new division’s leader.
The cost of the Little Golden Books titles went up through the years, selling for $0.29 in 1962, $0.39 in 1968 and $0.59 in 1977.
In the 1980s, the cost went up to $0.89 in 1982 and to $0.99 in 1986.
Today, the books are still affordable if you buy a brand-new copy, hovering around $4.99 each. You can find them for about $5 and up on Amazon.
And his 1942 version of “Mother Goose” with the original dust jacket is for sale for $1,375.
Did you read Little Golden books when you were growing up? Do you read them to your own children now?