Thursday, August 11, 2005

Thursday Retro Toy Flashback # 5: Little Golden Books


In previous Thursday retro-toy flashbacks I've highlighted the 2-XL Robot (which plays 8-track tapes...) lunch-boxes, model kits, and Colorform Adventure Playsets, but this week I want to make note of another glorious bit of my 1970s childhood: The Little Golden Books!

The story of the Little Golden Book goes back to September 1942 - during World War II - when Simon & Schuster began publishing these books with the sturdy golden spine for children. Sold at 25 cents a piece, these books sold by the millions. By the late 1970s, the books were selling for 69 cents a piece and had come to mirror "children's popular culture over the years," according to the official history, which you can find here.

Over the years, Little Golden Books have completed their commendable stated mission of reflecting childrens' pop culture by featuring books on such characters as Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger, Sesame Street, Barbie, Scooby Doo and Pokemon, but - as usual - I'm thinking of the genre-related movie/TV-related books from my own youth (the 1970s), of which you can see several examples here. Among them: Sid & Marty Krofft's Land of the Lost ("The Surprise Guests,") Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and the Children of Hopetown, and even one based on the Disney sci-fi movie from Christmas of 1979, The Black Hole, ("A Spaceship Adventure for Robots).

See, I have a theory about these wonderful Little Golden Books and our "geek generation" (see
Geek Philosophy). I think that before many of us were old enough to get into comic-books, and before many of us were ready to move to Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, we began our reading careers with these books. For me, I was young when the Land of the Lost book came out (in 1975...) and it allowed me to pursue my interest of the TV characters into a reading format. For those born later, they might have done the same with Buck Rogers or The Black Hole. And today, the same thing is happening. Young fans of Pokemon can turn first to a Little Golden Story Book and then beyond. It's an introduction to reading, spurred by the popularity of a TV show, and I believe it's a very good thing. It certainly helped me.

As The Little Golden Book
Timeline notes, these books have existed for more than sixty years, and in the process have become an "icon." The Smithsonian Institute, for instance, includes them in its Division of Cultural History, and in 2001, the books won a Dr. Toy Award for "Best Classic Toy." It's easy to see why, they are primers for good readers, and - for my generation at least - eased us from TV watching into reading. And for that, I know I'm very grateful.

Today I have several Little Golden Books, and you can see a few from my collection pictured here.

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