The Saggy Baggy Elephant, Gingerbread Man, Shy Little Kitten, Naughty Bunny, and – of course – Little Golden Books’ mascot Poky Little Puppy are among the timeless characters who make encore appearances on the pages of a Golden Books series for adults. Written by longtime Golden Books editor Diane Muldrow and launched in fall 2013 with Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book, the series pairs light observations and advice with images from the iconic line of paper-over-board picture books. In September, Muldrow added Everything I Need to Know About Christmas I Learned from a Little Golden Book to the series, which continues with Everything I Need to Know About Love I Learned from a Little Golden Book on December 23.
Featuring the familiar Little Golden Books gold-foil spines and cover photos with a mid 20th-cenury vibe, the Everything I Need to Know series has had an auspicious start. The inaugural title has sold 520,000 copies, Christmas has 300,000 copies in print, and Love has a 200,000-copy first printing.
A diverse group of accounts, large and small, has signed on to sell the books, reported Pamela Roman, v-p and director of Random House special markets, who cited “children’s gift shops and nostalgia sections of adult stores” as among the venues stocking the series. “Our special markets division had lofty expectations for these books, which have been exceeded by their sales,” said Roman. “The $9.99 price point and adorable illustrations – truly an irresistible combination for gift-giving – have made it an impulse-driven purchase.”
Muldrow (who has spent 22 years at Golden Books during two tenures, most recently as editorial director since 1999) was riding the subway home from work when the title, Everything I Know About Life I Learned from a Little Golden Book, popped into her head. “It was probably 2009, not long after the economic crash of 2008, and there was a lot of talk in the media about people’s financial straits,” she recalled. “And the notion of a playful book of advice for adults in such stressful times, illustrated by vintage Little Golden Books art, just hit me. I was very excited by the idea, and started writing notes right there on the subway.”
Given her familiarity with – and fondness for – the art that fills the more than 1,400 Little Golden Books published since 1942, Muldrow had no trouble finding pertinent illustrations to accompany her text for the series’ launch title. To illustrate the book’s opening lines (“Is your life starting to feel like a circus? Don’t panic.... Today’s a new day!” ), the editor chose images by Tibor Gergely and Eloise Wilkin. Among the other artists represented in the volume are Gustaf Tenggren, Richard Scarry, Garth Williams, Eloise Wilkin, J.P. Miller, and Mary Blair.
“I know these books inside and out, and the images float around my head all the time, especially since I’m constantly relooking at them, when thinking of spinning a title into a board book or a big book,” she explained. “These classic Little Golden Books contain so much joy, and have such beautiful illustrations by some of the greatest artists of the 20th century. I thought a lighthearted guide would be a nice way to again share this art, including images from out-of-print books.”
After Random House Children’s Books president Barbara Marcus suggested a Christmas-themed Everything I Know title, Muldrow was initially concerned that there wouldn’t be sufficient relevant images, but was pleasantly surprised when she began scouring the Little Golden Books archives. “There were plenty of wonderful pictures, but I needed a hook for the text,” she said. “And then it came to me: When an adult realizes Christmas is coming soon their reaction is, ‘Oh no! There’s so much to do!’ but kids immediately say, ‘Yay!’ It was a lot of fun to relay both of those moods in the book.”
Muldrow isn’t finished using Little Golden Books art to deliver sprightly life lessons. Due in September 2015 is Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Disney Little Golden Book, which Muldrow called “a very fun one to write. People say that they find these books inspirational, and there certainly is no lack of inspiration in the art from the Little Golden Book Disney movie retellings. Like with the earlier books, it will be so great to see these illustrations out there again.”
Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow. Golden Books, $9.99 Sept. 2013 ISBN 978-0-307-97761-8
Everything I Need to Know About Christmas I Learned from a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow. Golden Books, $9.99 Sept. 2014 ISBN 978-0-553-49735-9
Everything I Need to Know About Love I Learned from a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow. Golden Books, $9.99 Dec. 2014 ISBN 978-0-553-50875-8