When she pitched the idea of writing a Taylor Swift Little Golden Book biography in February 2021, Wendy Loggia couldn’t have known that the beloved pop star would be embarking on a record-smashing world tour in spring 2023. Loggia is a Swiftie and thought the artist would make an ideal subject for the line of biographies the Golden Book imprint introduced in 2016. Taylor Swift: A Little Golden Book Biography debuted this May 2, just as Taylor-mania was overtaking the world, as a #1 bestseller on the PW and New York Times lists.

“The timing was pure luck,” says Loggia, v-p and senior executive editor at Delacorte Press (a Random House Children’s Books imprint along with Little Golden Books). “The stars aligned for this book.” Just over five months later, it has sold 367,000 copies according to BookScan, has had multiple reprints, and shows no sign of slowing down. It was a #1 overall bestseller in Australia the first week in September.

According to Time, Swift’s Eras tour is on track to generate around $5 billion in consumer spending in the U.S. alone, even before the tour extends into Asia, Australia, and Europe next year. For die-hard Swifties and those who can’t afford a concert ticket (which average around $1,300, according to Business Insider), a Little Golden Book priced at $5.99 has become a sought-after, but affordable, collector’s item, met with near-universal praise (Rolling Stone called it “a must-have for any Taylor Swift collection”).

“The response from fans and book buyers has been overwhelming,” Loggia says. Perusing social media (especially TikTok) for mentions of the book, she’s discovered the sometimes-surprising ways readers are interacting with it. “People are giving it as baby shower gifts, they’re putting their concert tickets in the book, they’re pulling the book apart and creating journals with their own pages inserted, they’re using it in schools along with friendship bracelets as a classroom activity.”

How does she explain the broad appeal? The endearing illustrations by Elisa Chavarri (which some fans have ripped from the book and framed), the attractive price point, and the prevailing Taylor-mania are certainly factors, Loggia says. But part of the book’s success can also be attributed to Swift’s power as an inspiring role model—someone who pursued her dreams and stands up for others. Those qualities are central to all Little Golden Book biographies, according to Andrea Posner-Sanchez, the series’ editorial director.

A home library

The Little Golden Books brand launched in 1942, offering families an opportunity to start their own book collections, given the books’ affordable 25¢ cover price. They were meant to be accessible; rather than appearing primarily in bookstores, where some families might not have been regular visitors, they were sold in dime stores, grocery stores, and even train stations—places where kids might be shopping with their parents. With early entries such as The Poky Little Puppy and The Little Red Hen, the line was an instant hit, and grew through the decades to encompass a catalog of more than 1,400 titles. The brand was acquired by Random House in 2001.

Through the years, Little Golden Books have retained their original 24-page format and distinctive gold-foil spine. The biography line launched with Abraham Lincoln and George Washington in 2016, followed by Johnny Appleseed in 2017 and Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King Jr. in 2018. Posner-Sanchez took over as editor later that year and published a biography of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Shana Corey, released in 2020. It was a breakout hit. Collectively, the Little Golden Book biographies have sold more than two million copies, according to the publisher.

The books are designed to be read to young children, but Posner-Sanchez says they’re only a portion of the readership. A perhaps surprising fact is the number of adults who are purchasing the books for themselves.

The “nostalgia factor” is a big part of that, Posner-Sanchez explains. Little Golden Books hold a special place for those who grew up reading them, and when they feature a beloved cultural icon, such as Betty White, they hit a sweet spot.

The books have even been used in senior centers as an option for those who might need something easy to read and are familiar with the subjects, Loggia says, and the price also makes them attractive gifts for fans of their featured subjects. Posner-Sanchez adds that she was touched to learn that Carol Burnett was seen carrying her own Little Golden Book biography when leaving her 90th birthday celebration with friends.

The biography line published four titles in 2021, increasing to eight in 2022. Next year, 22 new titles are planned. Posner-Sanchez says the series considers a broad range of public figures for the biographies: Beyoncé, Simone Biles, Misty Copeland, Willie Nelson, and Dolly Parton are just a few on the current roster. First and foremost, a subject must have an inspiring story, but it also helps if they’re having a cultural moment.

“It’s great for kids to hear about people who have persevered and succeeded against all odds and who have done great things to benefit others,” Posner-Sanchez says, adding that she gets a lot of suggestions for future titles from both inside and outside the company. Coming this fall, fans will find books on the Beatles, Jonas Salk, Bruce Springsteen, and Oprah Winfrey, among others.

Loggia is also the author of the Little Golden Book on Lucille Ball. Growing up in Ball’s hometown of Jamestown, N.Y., she has always been a fan of the trailblazing comedian. Her deep base of knowledge made it both a pleasure and a challenge to fit Ball’s life story into the Little Golden Book format, which ranges from approximately 800 to 1,000 words. At her book signing at the National Comedy Center during its recent annual festival, Loggia was greeted by a 90-minute line of book buyers from around the world, some dressed as Ball. There were both kids and adults at the signing, including members of Lucille Ball fan clubs who were eager for new merch dedicated to the beloved comedian.

Breakout biographies like Swift’s have raised awareness about other books in the series. “I’m so excited that these books have brought a spotlight to the wonderful biographies that are already out and that are coming,” Loggia says. “I hope they inspire young readers to pursue their dreams.”

Joanne O’Sullivan is a journalist, author, and editor in Asheville, N.C.