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Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became An American Icon Along the Way

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THE YEAR 2007 marks the 65th anniversary of a bold experiment: the launch of the Little Golden Books during the dark days of World War II. At a time when the literacy rate was not nearly as high as it is now - and privation was felt by nearly all - quality books for children would now be available at a price nearly everyone could afford (25 cents), and sold where ordinary THE YEAR 2007 marks the 65th anniversary of a bold experiment: the launch of the Little Golden Books during the dark days of World War II. At a time when the literacy rate was not nearly as high as it is now - and privation was felt by nearly all - quality books for children would now be available at a price nearly everyone could afford (25 cents), and sold where ordinary people shopped. Golden Legacy is a lively history of a company, a line of books, the groundbreaking writers and artists who created them, the clever mavericks who marketed and sold them, and the cultural landscape that surrounded them.


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THE YEAR 2007 marks the 65th anniversary of a bold experiment: the launch of the Little Golden Books during the dark days of World War II. At a time when the literacy rate was not nearly as high as it is now - and privation was felt by nearly all - quality books for children would now be available at a price nearly everyone could afford (25 cents), and sold where ordinary THE YEAR 2007 marks the 65th anniversary of a bold experiment: the launch of the Little Golden Books during the dark days of World War II. At a time when the literacy rate was not nearly as high as it is now - and privation was felt by nearly all - quality books for children would now be available at a price nearly everyone could afford (25 cents), and sold where ordinary people shopped. Golden Legacy is a lively history of a company, a line of books, the groundbreaking writers and artists who created them, the clever mavericks who marketed and sold them, and the cultural landscape that surrounded them.

30 review for Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became An American Icon Along the Way

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael Fitzgerald

    Although this book contains a lot of information, there is also much that is not included, and the curious but unsatisfied reader is forced to look elsewhere to hunt down things. For example, the magnificent (and very influential) Deluxe Golden Books of the late 1950s and 1960s really ought to be the subject of a separate presentation. Here they are treated as an aside, at best. There is absolutely no mention of The Golden Treasury of Natural History, The World We Live In, The Epic of Man, The G Although this book contains a lot of information, there is also much that is not included, and the curious but unsatisfied reader is forced to look elsewhere to hunt down things. For example, the magnificent (and very influential) Deluxe Golden Books of the late 1950s and 1960s really ought to be the subject of a separate presentation. Here they are treated as an aside, at best. There is absolutely no mention of The Golden Treasury of Natural History, The World We Live In, The Epic of Man, The Golden Book of Lost Worlds: Great Civilizations of the Past, Man and Power, The Golden Book of the Renaissance, The Golden Book of America, The American Indian, The Golden Book of the American Revolution, The Golden Book of the Civil War, The Second World War, The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments, or The Golden Book Of Science. Although there were some connections (through authors like Jane Werner Watson), these were books of an entirely different character than the Little Golden Books. Other wonderful titles like the Tenggren King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and the Benvenuti The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood are also unmentioned. This gives a somewhat unbalanced view of what the publisher managed to accomplish over the years. Given some time, I'd be able to come up with several more issues.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    I admit that I gave up reading at one point and just looked at all the pictures. These were pictures from books at my grandmother's house, of books always on the shelf at home. Fresh-faced, apple-cheeked children, colorful, smiling animals...a good journey back in time. The story is an interesting look at the publishing industry - how it has changed, and how it continues to change, especially with the introduction of new technology. I wonder if there will be favorite picture books that children I admit that I gave up reading at one point and just looked at all the pictures. These were pictures from books at my grandmother's house, of books always on the shelf at home. Fresh-faced, apple-cheeked children, colorful, smiling animals...a good journey back in time. The story is an interesting look at the publishing industry - how it has changed, and how it continues to change, especially with the introduction of new technology. I wonder if there will be favorite picture books that children only experience in electronic form. I have managed to integrate the electronic media format into my life, but I am still most in love with the pictures I see in physical books.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Eric_W

    My wife (the children's author and illustrator) was reading this book and laid it on the bed. I happened to see a couple of illustrations and I was hooked. This book will drive you into the depths of nostalgia like nothing else. Gorgeous covers -- you can skim most of the text, which while interesting, relates to a lot of the business aspects of Golden Books -- of all those books we loved and treasured as children. Remember The Color Kittens and The Poky Little Puppy? Golden Books created a sens My wife (the children's author and illustrator) was reading this book and laid it on the bed. I happened to see a couple of illustrations and I was hooked. This book will drive you into the depths of nostalgia like nothing else. Gorgeous covers -- you can skim most of the text, which while interesting, relates to a lot of the business aspects of Golden Books -- of all those books we loved and treasured as children. Remember The Color Kittens and The Poky Little Puppy? Golden Books created a sensational business model that sold thousands of books at very inexpensive prices in supermarkets and began careers for many illustrators like Richard Scarry and the Provensons. At one point they were so successful that the Little Fat Policeman was given to every rookie NYPD cop in their orientation packet in the fifties. By the late nineties, however, a company that had enthralled two generations of children was on hard times and subject to takeover bids and buyouts. A desperate attempt was made to capture the school market with the Road-to-Reading series (my wife's Little Prince Know It All was part of that series although she did not illustrate that title.) Unfortunately, when Random House took over the remnants of Golden Books they discontinued that series and replaced it with their own. (The conspiratorialists among us would argue they did it to eliminate competition. Whatever.) I remember loving Golden Books as a child. My kids did, too. I remember Marc, now thirty and always a stickler for detail, pointing out a mistake. "But Dad, it says he hit his finger." The illustration showed a banged up thumb. You will love this book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    Children's books are one of my passions. I found Marcus' Story of Golden books fascinating. It's interesting how librarians and big name publishers so looked down on Little Golden Books; My local library still doesn't stock them. The magic of these books wasn't that they were examples of great literature, but that they were books parents could afford and young children loved. Little Golden Books are responsible for helping three generations of children fall in love with books. The book is divide Children's books are one of my passions. I found Marcus' Story of Golden books fascinating. It's interesting how librarians and big name publishers so looked down on Little Golden Books; My local library still doesn't stock them. The magic of these books wasn't that they were examples of great literature, but that they were books parents could afford and young children loved. Little Golden Books are responsible for helping three generations of children fall in love with books. The book is divided into sections that approximate the seven decades they've been around. Beautifully illustrated, it brought back memories of the books I loved as a child, the ones my children grew up with, and now my grandchildren are reading. One warning- Amazon advertises it as for ages 3-7; Altho children might like looking at the pictures, this is an adult book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Eloise

    Wonderful history of Golden Books made more meaningful by having met Leonard Marcus and hearing him speak in July.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Ouderkirk

    Golden Legacy was written to celebrate 65 years of publishing books for children in 2007. The Little Golden Book was a part of everyone's childhood from 1942 onwards, made possible by the then radical idea of mass producing books for everyone's budget. Originally priced at .25 cents a book, the Goldens upended the industry, ticked off the snobbish librarians, who thought they had no literary value, and became a part of the collective memories and imagination of children of the past several decad Golden Legacy was written to celebrate 65 years of publishing books for children in 2007. The Little Golden Book was a part of everyone's childhood from 1942 onwards, made possible by the then radical idea of mass producing books for everyone's budget. Originally priced at .25 cents a book, the Goldens upended the industry, ticked off the snobbish librarians, who thought they had no literary value, and became a part of the collective memories and imagination of children of the past several decades. The Poky Little Puppy went on to become the biggest selling children's book of all time. Marcus' book reviews the technological changes that made mass production possible, and highlights several of the authors and illustrators who contributed to the Goldens. And the list is long - Margaret Wise Brown, Ruth Krauss, Garth Williams, Richard Scarry, Eloise Wilkin to name a few of the most famous artists. The Goldens also had marketing deals with Disney, and cashed in on the commercial value of Hollywood properties (Sesame Street, Lassie, Donny and Marie). The writers and Illustrators were super talented, but not necessarily treated well in this publishing culture that emphasized mass production. The publishing house maintained the rights to the stories and illustrations (except in rare instances, the talent was paid a flat fee). I think that point summarizes the pros and cons of the Goldens, that is, they appealed to a large number of kids and were affordable because they were produced under a 'group' mandate - individuality and artistry were secondary concerns. Marcus also highlights the changes over the decades. The one issue that surprised me is that inclusivity was a major concern back in the 1970s!! Fifty years later, it is still a hot topic and we are discussing ideas that are not new, but keep getting buried and dug up in the sands of time. The Goldens live on, currently published by Penguin Random House, continuing to feed the pop culture experience and memories of all of us.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    The history of the iconic Golden Books that we all knew & loved - if not when we were kids, when we had kids. I'm especially fond of Eloise Wilkin's illustrations and this book provided more insight into her work and character. It also made me appreciate how radical these inexpensive, yet creative and artistic books were in their time. Something I learned from the book: Scientists thought they knew all there was in 1918 about dinosaurs, and that area of study became less popular. But there was a The history of the iconic Golden Books that we all knew & loved - if not when we were kids, when we had kids. I'm especially fond of Eloise Wilkin's illustrations and this book provided more insight into her work and character. It also made me appreciate how radical these inexpensive, yet creative and artistic books were in their time. Something I learned from the book: Scientists thought they knew all there was in 1918 about dinosaurs, and that area of study became less popular. But there was a renewed interest after a huge mural was painted at Yale in the 1940's, followed by the 1960 Giant Golden Book, Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Reptiles, written by Jane Werner Watson & illustrated by Zallinger: “Men learned about dinosaurs from fossils in rocks. It was a bit like learning to read. The rocks of earth are like a huge book. The rock layers are its pages. Hidden in them is the story of the earth’s past. But to learn that story, men had to learn to read the book of the rocks.” The book ends with a quote from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: “It is a great thing to start life with a small number of really good books which are your very own.” Golden books provided that for many kids, just as Dolly Parton's book program, and others like it do today.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Yoghourtjian

    This is a wonderful account about the history of Golden Books. I grew up with Little Golden Books, and they primed me to love the written word. I am from Racine, WI, and Western Printing was a household name. When I grew up and had a daughter in the 1980's, I would take her to Western Printings discount...over flow store called The Boat House. I would grab a cardboard box and fill it up with Golden Books...she was 3 months old and would actually sit still to listen to me read. This book explains This is a wonderful account about the history of Golden Books. I grew up with Little Golden Books, and they primed me to love the written word. I am from Racine, WI, and Western Printing was a household name. When I grew up and had a daughter in the 1980's, I would take her to Western Printings discount...over flow store called The Boat House. I would grab a cardboard box and fill it up with Golden Books...she was 3 months old and would actually sit still to listen to me read. This book explains the extraordinary vision of the people who ran with the Golden Book idea to make it affordable for every family. The book covers topics such as the people who ran the company, the business side of printing and publishing, the writers, the illustrators, and the books themselves.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    The history of the Golden Book Empire is well documented in this fully illustrated (more pictures than text actually) coffee table book. From its early beginnings as a small printer in Racine Wisconsin, to its huge nation wide presence in more than just inexpensive picture books, this is a thorough story - people, places, and problems all take center stage. If you remember Golden Books as a child, you will find a lot of book covers full of memories and nostalgia, and some great stories about the The history of the Golden Book Empire is well documented in this fully illustrated (more pictures than text actually) coffee table book. From its early beginnings as a small printer in Racine Wisconsin, to its huge nation wide presence in more than just inexpensive picture books, this is a thorough story - people, places, and problems all take center stage. If you remember Golden Books as a child, you will find a lot of book covers full of memories and nostalgia, and some great stories about the authors and illustrators. This is not a children’s book, however - the use of some very advanced vocabulary made it a challenging read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Mitchell *Kiss the Book*

    Marcus, Leonard S. Golden Legacy : The Story of Golden Books, 245 pgs. Penguin Random House, 2007. $40.00. Content: G. If you remember Golden Books as a child, you will find a lot of book covers full of memories and nostalgia, and some great stories about the authors and illustrators. This is not a children’s book, however, the use of some very advanced vocabulary made it a challenging read. ADULT - GIFT Lisa Librarian https://kissthebook.blogspot.com/2017... Cross-posted on reviewers personal Goo Marcus, Leonard S. Golden Legacy : The Story of Golden Books, 245 pgs. Penguin Random House, 2007. $40.00. Content: G. If you remember Golden Books as a child, you will find a lot of book covers full of memories and nostalgia, and some great stories about the authors and illustrators. This is not a children’s book, however, the use of some very advanced vocabulary made it a challenging read. ADULT - GIFT Lisa Librarian https://kissthebook.blogspot.com/2017... Cross-posted on reviewers personal GoodReads account

  11. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    It's more about the founding and history of the company, and its personalities, than about the actual books themselves. However, when some of the notable titles are briefly discussed (or there are also pages with cover artwork) it will probably trigger a blast of nostalgia. Scuffy, Tootle, and many others have lived on in print for decades and I'd like to think they'll stick around for many more years. It's more about the founding and history of the company, and its personalities, than about the actual books themselves. However, when some of the notable titles are briefly discussed (or there are also pages with cover artwork) it will probably trigger a blast of nostalgia. Scuffy, Tootle, and many others have lived on in print for decades and I'd like to think they'll stick around for many more years.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    I did not feel like this book was organized very well. I found this book in the juvenile nonfiction area of my library and after reading it I am shocked at this shelving. As an adult I had a hard time making sense of this scattered story. I would not recommend this book to an average reader. I felt like I was missing the background knowledge needed to enjoy this book. This is the kind of book that gives nonfiction a bad name. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t like it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Robin Ryan

    Such a delightful reminder of books of my past and books I still love! The story behind how Golden Books came to be and came to be a staple in the homes of so many, is nicely told by Leonard Marcus. The best part of this book, however, are the reprints of the illustrations of so many books and the photographs of the artists and writers behind them. Check out the artwork of Feodor Rojankovsky - one of the early illustrators.

  14. 5 out of 5

    C. Michael

    I have a great deal of nostalgic fondness for Little Golden Books, both as a young reader and as a parent reading them to my children, but until I read this, I knew very little about the company that produced them. This was a great introduction to the people and events that brought these books to the world. It's beautifully illustrated and contains enough detail to be intriguing without overwhelming a reader with too many facts and figures. I have a great deal of nostalgic fondness for Little Golden Books, both as a young reader and as a parent reading them to my children, but until I read this, I knew very little about the company that produced them. This was a great introduction to the people and events that brought these books to the world. It's beautifully illustrated and contains enough detail to be intriguing without overwhelming a reader with too many facts and figures.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Joe Keefhaver

    Despite first impressions, this is actually a book about the companies that developed to concept of quality, but inexpensive "Little Golden Books," and the writers and illustrators whose work these companies made famous. These books, at first shunned by librarians and critics, changed the entire way in which books were marketed. In addition, there are page after page of beautiful art from the classic books. Despite first impressions, this is actually a book about the companies that developed to concept of quality, but inexpensive "Little Golden Books," and the writers and illustrators whose work these companies made famous. These books, at first shunned by librarians and critics, changed the entire way in which books were marketed. In addition, there are page after page of beautiful art from the classic books.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Ule

    The magic of this heavy lavish book are the Golden Book covers, nostalgia from my childhood. Marcus has written a thorough book, but I prefered to look at the photos and read the memories of children associated with the artists and authors. It made for a splendid hour of page turning and remembering.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    There are many nostalgic pictures in this book about the history of how the "Little Golden Books" publication was started and the many changes over the years since 1942. I read some of the narrative and skipped through some, but enjoyed all the pictures of the book covers, recognizing many of the books I had read as a child. There are many nostalgic pictures in this book about the history of how the "Little Golden Books" publication was started and the many changes over the years since 1942. I read some of the narrative and skipped through some, but enjoyed all the pictures of the book covers, recognizing many of the books I had read as a child.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jen Hughes

    As an avid collector Little Golden Books, this is an invaluable work. Marcus’s research and insights into the history of children’s book publishing is second to none. You gain a larger perspective and interpretation of how the evolution of these seemingly simple books paralleled American society in the 20th century.

  19. 5 out of 5

    B

    I really enjoyed reading this book after attending a special presentation at our local library on the 75th anniversary of Golden Books. This is a fascinating history of the beloved children’s books with wonderful illustrations.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Good book for Golden book collectors. I use as a reference whenever someone gives me a new book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    This is a wonderful history of Children's book publishing in America and a trip down memory lane to see the book covers of so many books I've enjoyed and authors and illustrators I still admire This is a wonderful history of Children's book publishing in America and a trip down memory lane to see the book covers of so many books I've enjoyed and authors and illustrators I still admire

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sonia Jarmula

    A beautiful and informative read. Brings back a lot of great memories.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Cansler

    History as told through the lens of a golden book. The art is just beautiful!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Buxton

    B-. nonfiction, children's literature B-. nonfiction, children's literature

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rae

    Publishing industry. Richard Scarry. Margaret Wise Brown. Racial and gender stereotyping. Sweet childhood reading memories.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cindy DavisClark

    Loved those little golden books

  27. 5 out of 5

    Caren

    I have actually had this book for a couple of years, but had only feasted on its wealth of illustrations. Now, in anticipation of hearing the author speak at an exhibit of the books, I finally read through the text and found it to be fascinating. As part of the baby boom generation (that euphoric rush to procreation that followed World War II), Little Golden books were very much a part of my childhood. This detailed history of the publisher notes in passing how these inexpensive little books wer I have actually had this book for a couple of years, but had only feasted on its wealth of illustrations. Now, in anticipation of hearing the author speak at an exhibit of the books, I finally read through the text and found it to be fascinating. As part of the baby boom generation (that euphoric rush to procreation that followed World War II), Little Golden books were very much a part of my childhood. This detailed history of the publisher notes in passing how these inexpensive little books were frowned upon by librarians as not being "quality literature", and how the story lines were influenced by the Bank Street School's idea that stories for children should be about everyday parts of their world (rather than about fantasy figures). There is lots of background information on the authors and, to an even greater extent, the illustrators who became iconic through these little books. I pulled out the several volumes of the reissued classics Random House sold a few years ago, in order to pore over the illustrations with new eyes, having learned a bit about the people behind the pictures. There I found the beloved images created by Gustaf Tenggren ("Poky Little Puppy"), Eloise Wilkin, the Provensens, Richard Scarry, Garth Williams, Tibor Gergely, J.P. Miller, and Feodor Rojankovsky. If these names seem unfamiliar to you, look at their illustrations and you will realize you have known their works from your youngest years (if you were, as I was, fortunate enough to have had a library of these little 25-cent gems). Yes, this is a nostalgic walk down memory lane, but it is also a record of the evolution of book publishing for children in the twentieth century.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    “It is a great thing to start life with a small number of really good books which are your very own.” I admit, I've had this book for quite a few years and had only looked at the terrific illustrations. I never read the text until now. I grew up with the affordable, 25 cent Little Golden Books and remember many of them very fondly. I wasn't aware then, or as an adult, of the history of the company. It was interesting to read of the many personalities and the marketing strategies that contributed “It is a great thing to start life with a small number of really good books which are your very own.” I admit, I've had this book for quite a few years and had only looked at the terrific illustrations. I never read the text until now. I grew up with the affordable, 25 cent Little Golden Books and remember many of them very fondly. I wasn't aware then, or as an adult, of the history of the company. It was interesting to read of the many personalities and the marketing strategies that contributed to this empire starting in 1942. It was also fascinating to read of the cultural changes that (finally!) happened after about 1968. Children of color! Women doing more than just cooking! But, by far, the best part was the trip I took down Memory Lane. I loved the illustrations and found that my very favorite books (The Poky Little Puppy, The Shy Little Kitten, The Tawny Scrawny Lion, The Saggy, Baggy Elephant) were all illustrated by the same person. So I guess Gustaf Tenggren was my favorite Little Books illustrator. I didn't know his name until today. This is a lovely book but I have two minor complaints. Editing was sloppy in parts...especially with spelling. For instance, Roy Rogers was sometimes spelled Rodgers. Also, there were short, insightful interviews with some contemporary children's authors/illustrators but, for those of us without children, it would have been helpful to tell us WHO these people are and why they matter. Who is Steven Guarnaccia? William Joyce? Harry Bliss? I needed some context. But I enjoyed this overall!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Williwaw

    Several years ago, I heard the author, Leonard Marcus, speak at a traveling exhibit of original art from the Golden Books. I bought the book after the talk, and he kindly signed my copy! I recall reading some of these books when I was a child, and being enchanted by the illustrations. I still find many of the illustrations enchanting. Perhaps even more-so now, as an adult. Or perhaps I simply experience them differently. Whether it is a qualitative or quantitative difference (or both!), there is Several years ago, I heard the author, Leonard Marcus, speak at a traveling exhibit of original art from the Golden Books. I bought the book after the talk, and he kindly signed my copy! I recall reading some of these books when I was a child, and being enchanted by the illustrations. I still find many of the illustrations enchanting. Perhaps even more-so now, as an adult. Or perhaps I simply experience them differently. Whether it is a qualitative or quantitative difference (or both!), there is no question that the Golden Books artists did powerfully evocative work. This book traces the origins of Western Publishing and Golden books. I was surprised to discover that mass-marketed, affordable children's books were not available until the advent of the Golden Books, in 1942. It's been a while since I read this book -- and I don't think I read all of it, because it's too easy to get distracted by the pictures! -- but I recall that the history of the publisher was surprisingly interesting. This book is chock-full of illustrations and photographs. It's a real feast for the eyes and can be enjoyed as a coffee-table book just as well as a book for serious study.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    I thought this book would be a pleasant look at the Golden Books I remember as a child and then again as a mother and now once again as a grandmother. What a nice surprise to find a fascinating history of children's book publishing and printing and an overview of child book illustrators and writers. The focus is always Western Publishing and the Golden Books, but the net is much wider, including Disney, TV, marketing external forces such as the rise of feminism and civil rights. I loved that the I thought this book would be a pleasant look at the Golden Books I remember as a child and then again as a mother and now once again as a grandmother. What a nice surprise to find a fascinating history of children's book publishing and printing and an overview of child book illustrators and writers. The focus is always Western Publishing and the Golden Books, but the net is much wider, including Disney, TV, marketing external forces such as the rise of feminism and civil rights. I loved that the "bad" people were librarians and efficiency experts. Of course, the very best part was the wonderful nostalgic excess. The book is absolutely full of illustrations and pictures. I recognized many of the Golden Book covers and illustrations. I enjoyed seeing how reissues changed in tone with the times. I delighted in remembering the inside cover with: This Book Belongs To. Pure enjoyment but also very interesting publishing history. Cheryl - I think you would find this very interesting.

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