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In 1941, children's books normally sold for $ 2 - $ 3; a luxury for many families. George Duplaix, president of the Artists and Writers Guild, Inc. (a joint interest of Simon & Schuster Publishing and Western Printing) came up with the concept of developing a colorful children's book that was durable and affordable for most American families. In September 1942 the first twelve Little Golden Books were published, and retailed for 25 cents per book.
Little Golden Books were an instant success story, even though WWII was on and paper shortages loomed. Five months after the launch, 1.5 million copies had been printed, and LGBs were in their third printing.
Many famous writers and illustrators created Little Golden Books, notably Margaret Wise Brown, author of GOODNIGHT MOON (Harper). Her LGBs 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 LGBs. Caldecott medalists James Marshall, Tibor Gergely, Leonard Weisgard, Alice and Martin Provensen, and Trina Schart Hyman have illustrated Little Golden Books.
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, and Between the Lions characters, Mister Rogers, Barney, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Underdog, Peter Cottontail, Barbie, and others. Dr. Ruth Westheimer has just penned a story about grandparents starring herself.
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.
Ownership and control of the series has changed several times since. In 2001, Random House acquired Golden Books for about 85 million dollars.
As of 2005, 15 million copies of The Poky Little Puppy have been sold, including copies in various languages.
Today, Little Golden Books are an icon. The Smithsonian Institution includes Little Golden Books and artwork in its Division of Cultural History.
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