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Memories are Golden September 5, 2008

Remember your Little Golden Books? If you’ve been a child, or a parent, since the enduring children’s book line debuted in 1942 (at the price of 25 cents apiece), you’d be hard-pressed not to remember the nostalgic series.

In fact, a new exhibit opening next week at the Aurora, Illinois Public Arts Commission will showcase more than 60 original illustrations from the beloved series in “Golden Legacy: 65 Years of Original Art from Golden Books.”

Little Golden Books — whose distinctive look has been preserved over the decades, so that the retro-styled covers still peek from trendy bookstore shelves today — have not been traditionally regarded (at least by me) as the pinnacle of juvenile literary merit. I always thought the nostalgia factor, as evidenced by the new exhibit, has always been the draw, the thing that most makes us want to share The Poky Little Puppy, Scuffy the Tugboat and Richard Scarry’s Best Little Word Book Ever with our children and children’s children.

Yet a glance down the list of now-legendary juvenile authors and illustrators whose by-lines have appeared on this series makes one have a little more respect.

Margaret Wise Brown, Eloise Wilkin, Garth Williams (who illustrated most of E.B. White’s children’s novels), just to name a few… these classic contributors to the world of juvenile books had talents as fine as they come.  In fact, I’m now inspired to read Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children’s Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became An American Icon Along the Way by Leonard S. Marcus (author of the first-rate bio Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon).

Maybe I’ve given Little Golden Books short shrift over the years. It makes me want to go track down some.

posted by Janie McQueen, author of The New Magic Bookshelf: Finding Great Books Your Child Will Treasure Forever