Original Little Golden Books – 8 Decades of History

Posted on Feb 5, 2024

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If you have children, are around children, or have ever been a child yourself (aka everyone!), you know about the original Little Golden Books. They’re those cute little storybooks with cartoon illustrations, moral lessons, and an iconic gold-wrapped spine.

My childless house has at least three Little Golden Books floating around for no apparent reason. They’ve been a staple in countless homes for generations.

The History of Little Golden Books

Little Golden Books are a long-running series of collectible books with an iconic gold foil binding and famously affordable price points. Publication began in the early 1940s, when Simon & Schuster worked in collaboration with Western Printing and Lithographing Company. Some of the books have been in print for over 80 years! They were—and are—plentiful in any book store. 

The first release of a dozen books sold for twenty-five cents each. You could also find them as add-ons in products like diapers, children’s meals, and cereal boxes. This made the books affordable for families during a time when children’s books were pretty expensive. They were also sturdy with cardboard covers, for clumsy baby hands. This was a pretty revolutionary format for children’s literature.

With the Baby Boom after World War II, Little Golden Books had a boom of their own. As birth rates grew, the demand for children’s lit grew right along with it. Throughout the years, Little Golden Books thrived, adapting to change in the publishing industry, growing with the addition of licensed characters, like Disney, Sesame Street, and the Muppets.

Random House acquired the rights to Little Golden Books in 2001, due to Western Publishing’s financial difficulties. This didn’t slow the popularity or growth of Little Golden Books. Compared to the quarter they used to sell for, you might be surprised to know that some of the older Little Golden Books sell for hundreds of dollars, as a highly sought collectors’ item.

The 12 Original Little Golden Books

The original Little Golden Books were a set of twelve, released simultaneously in 1942. After their massive success, the collection grew and continues to grow to this day, adding new titles every year. Here are those first twelve books.

1. Three Little Kittens

Three mischievous kittens go on playful adventures and discover the consequences of their actions while learning a little responsibility along the way.

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2. Bedtime Stories

This collection of short tales has lulled many children to sleep, with each story crafted to amp up that tranquil bedtime vibe.

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3. The Alphabet A-Z

This book gives parents and guardians an engaging, super cute way to introduce the alphabet to their children and makes learning fun.

From A To Z Golden Book

4. Mother Goose

This one hits the classic nursery rhymes, pairing them up with memorable illustrations. My personal favorite rendition is my nephew’s read of Little Miss Muffet, where she’s sitting on that tuffet and “eating her curds away”. 

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5. Prayers for Children

This is another collection, but this time of simple prayers.

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6. The Little Red Hen

The Little Red Hen is quite an industrious character, teaching the value of hard work and cooperation with her other farmyard friends.


7. Nursery Songs

This book combines storytelling with music in a collection of nursery songs and rhymes.

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8. The Poky Little Puppy

The Poky Little Puppy is a curious young man, exploring the world with brand new eyes.

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9. The Golden Book of Fairy Tales

The original 12 Little Golden Books leaned heavily on the anthology model, and this one is no different, composed of a collection of classic fairy tale stories.

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10. Baby’s Book

This is a unique book in the dozen, providing a space to record the milestone moments in your baby’s life to create a personal keepsake.

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11. The Animals of Farmer Jones

Introduce your child to the whole farm in this log of the daily activities of various animals.

12. This Little Piggy

This book contains counting rhymes, like This Little Piggy, to engage children with math early.

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Best Selling Little Golden Books

In the past 80 or so years since the original twelve were published, some Little Golden Books have out-performed the rest. Here are the best sellers.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

This one is exactly what you think it is! Follow the adventure of Snow White with some precious illustrations and a timeless story. Many of the best selling Little Golden Books are affiliated with Disney properties.


Little man wants to be a real boy, but he is wood. 🙁

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The Animals of Farmer Jones

This is one of the original dozen Little Golden Books, and it’s been racking up sales ever since! Kids love a good duck.

Tawny Scrawny Lion

The lion starts out scrawny and hungry, but throughout the story he discovers the joy of sharing with his other animal friends, learning that true happiness comes from friendship and/or lots of snacks.

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The Saggy Baggy Elephant

Our saggy friend has to learn to embrace his uniqueness and finds acceptance among friends. A step up from the moral of The Ugly Duckling, which is, “Hopefully you’re hot as a grown-up. Good luck! <3”

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Tootle is a train, which makes it clear why this one’s on the bestselling list. Kids love trains, and parents love books that teach kids the importance of staying on the tracks.


Mother Goose

This timeless collection of nursery rhymes that has raised generations was also one of the original twelve Little Goldens.

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Cars and Trucks

Kids learn about vehicles and what they’re used for.

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The Three Bears

Goldilocks’ famous caper.

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The Shy Little Kitten

In classic Little Golden Book fashion, this title tells you everything you need to know about the plot, where a kitten is both little and shy. She must overcome her shyness to make friends with other animals.

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The Poky Little Puppy

Also one of the original twelve books, a curious puppy explores the world and gets a little naughty.

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Scuffy the Tugboat

Scuffy is a little tugboat exploring a big big world.

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Three Little Pigs

Three oinky siblings deal with the ramifications of the median they chose to build their homes with.

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The Little Red Caboose

A train learns the importance of being a caboose and doing a great job at being a caboose.

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The Gingerbread Man

You can’t catch him! He’s so fast! No one can catch him!!

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The Fuzzy Duckling

The duckling is 1) fuzzy and 2) looking for home.

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The Princess and The Pea

A fairy tale about a princess who cannot sleep on a bed with a pea beneath it, thusly proving her royal heritage.

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Good Night, Little Bear

Little Bear bids a good night to various inanimate objects, as we bid good night to you, for this list of the best selling Little Golden Books is over.

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Little Golden Books have maintained their popularity and cultural significance for over eight decades, bringing joy and education to children in sturdy, affordable packages. More than 1,400 titles have been published, with new stories continually added, and many of the original titles are still in print today. The collection is celebrated for its role in making quality children’s literature accessible to a much wider audience than was ever available before its conception. They remain a beloved part of many families’ reading traditions and are likely to stay that way for a long, long time.

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