Monday, April 1, 2013

Little Golden Books

Spring always sends me skipping into a bookstore or library in search of fresh picture books with bright hues and enchanting stories. I look for nonfiction hardcovers with crisp photographs of backhoes and barnyard animals. I seek lively joke books and cheery bedtime stories. Sometimes, all I look for is a little flash of gold.

That gold is the distinctive foil spine of the Little Golden Books series. For over 70 years, generations of children have looked for the golden binding, knowing that great stories are there for the taking. Little Golden Books contain quality writing and art from some of the biggest names in the publishing business. They are perfectly sized for small hands, and are recommended for ages 2-6.

Classic stories and new titles are available through Random House. Some are available with a CD, others in boxed sets. There are so many titles that I can’t tell you about them all, so I have picked out some of my own family favorites to get your family started.

Gertrude Campton wrote two of our favorite classics, Tootle (1945) and Scuffy the Tugboat (1946), both pleasingly illustrated by Tibor Gergely. Tootle is a baby locomotive who struggles to follow the rules, especially Staying on the Rails No Matter What. Scuffy is a toy boat that is dissatisfied with sailing in a bathtub, “I was meant for bigger things,” he says, and sets off to seek adventure.  Both stories are engaging and they reinforce the virtues of prudence and temperance.

Based on a motion picture by Dr. Seuss, Gerald McBoing Boing (1950) is such fun to read aloud. Gerald is a boy who doesn’t speak words. No one knows what to do with Gerald; he doesn’t fit in at school or at play. Then he meets someone who appreciates his unusual talent and helps Gerald put it to good use. “Now Gerald is rich, / he has friends, he’s well fed, / ‘Cause he doesn’t speak words, / he goes boing boing instead!”

Prayers for Children (1952) is a sweet little book reverently illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. Her beatific children are shown at prayer while going about the simple events of the day.  This is a lovely book with which to begin a foundation in virtue and establish the habit of prayer in your children. There is a whole collection of Golden Books Inspirational to help parents share biblical stories with children.

 Kathryn Jackson’s adorable story, Tawny Scrawny Lion (1952), illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren, is the tale of a lion who never could get enough to eat – that is, until he became a vegetarian! What a fun way to teach the virtue of kindness. If you remember the audio book from 1976 with the wonderful song, “Carrot Stew,” you can listen to it again at Here's the link.

 Garth Williams illustrated some of the most wonderful books of the 20th century, including “Charlotte’s Web”, the “Little House” series, and “The Cricket in Times Square.” He also applied his talent to a number of Little Golden Books such as Baby Farm Animals (1953), and Home for a Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown (1956). Williams is a master of conveying texture. His animals are so appealingly bright-eyed and playful that readers want to pet the fluffy rabbits, piglets and puppies. Charming!

Little Golden Books also offers a number of books starring favorite characters that children recognize from TV and movies: Thomas and Friends, Barbie, Disney, and Sesame Street. Our favorite for four decades now is, The Monster at the End of This Book (1971), written by Jon Stone, illustrated by Mike Smollin, and starring your loveable, furry old pal Grover. Grover wants to stop the reader from turning pages to avoid getting closer to the monster at the end. The story has been adapted to a very entertaining ebook with classic Grover humor and great sound effects, but physically turning the page is so important to this story. Also, it is such fun to scream and whisper in a Grover voice. Best bet: share the book, love the book and later, for added fun, enjoy the ebook.

The Little Golden Book of Jokes and Riddles (2013) has funny, mid-century modern looking illustrations by David Sheldon which compliment the wacky jokes collected here by Peggy Brown. Perfect for kids who are just learning the art of telling a joke.

 Anne Kennedy illustrates the classic song, Old MacDonald Had a Farm (2013). You’ll find comfort in the familiar text and tune, but take a look at the surprising events going on at the farm!

Collections of high-quality stories illustrated by artists dedicated to beauty are important to have in your home so that children may return to them again and again. A shelf full of Little Golden Books will always be a treasured.

Michelle Clark wishes she had the ENTIRE Golden Books collection as well as the World of Peter Rabbit box set, but then that’s what the library is for. 

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