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Tom Mason

Professional Children's Books Expert

Golden Books

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Remember those classic children’s books that your great grandparents read when they were children? They’re still here.

The Best Of The Best:
You know them the second you see them lined up on a shelf: the little hardcover books with the gold foil spines. Since 1942, there have been Little Golden Books available for children to read and re-read and the sturdy cardboard covers make them last longer than most books (and for pre-readers, they also make good teethers). Over one billion (that’s with a “b”) have been sold and many of them are still available today, now published by Random House. Despite their age, many of the stories are still as unique and relevant as contemporary books and while the art may look retro, it doesn't feel dated. Stack a shelf with these classics for boys and girls (ages 3-6), and you can't go wrong.

Best Classic Golden Books by Tom Mason

The Best You Can Get

  • The Poky Little Puppy

    Tom says: What can you say about the PLP? The now iconic character debuted in the very first Little Golden Book back in 1942. Illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren, who used to work for The Walt Disney Studios on movies like "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," Poky crawls under the fence and misbehaves just like his four siblings, but he never gets into any trouble because he's so pokey. By the time he does return home, his sibs had been punished, so he eats their food and sleeps happily. When the others turn the tables on him and the Poky Little Puppy misses out on his own dessert, he learns a strong lesson in obeying. Janette Sebring Lowrey story is a fun read-aloud adventure. The puppies' behavior is never too bad and their punishment is never too severe, but the message still comes across. Tenggren's illustrations have a classic feel that makes the "Poky Little Puppy" as comfortable as an old shoe to chew on.

    • by Janette Sebring Lowrey and Gustaf Tenggren
    • Puppies!
    • The first book!
    • Over 15 million sold!
    • The Moral of the Story? Obeying
  • Richard Scarry's Good Night Little Bear

    Tom says: There are a lot of Little Bears in children's literature, but Richard Scarry created one of the first and this little bear remains one of the best. Little Bear's bedtime is fast-approaching but his father pretends he can't find him anywhere. As the hunt begins for his son, Father Bear conveniently forgets to look on his shoulders which is where Little Bear's hiding. First published in 1961, "Good Night Little Bear" is less cartoony than Richard Scarry's later work; the bear family feels warm and fuzzy. Patsy Scarry's story will make every kid smile and give parents a fun game to play with their own "little bear."

    • by Patsy Scarry and Richard Scarry
    • Bears
    • First published in 1961
    • The Moral of the Story? Fun and Games
  • The Fire Engine Book

    Tom says: Hooray for the brave firefighters! When a fire alarm sounds, the fire station fills with activity as the firefighters race to put out a fire. This is a thrilling and action-packed adventure with detailed illustrations that fill the page and practically leap off of it. With just a few words, Gergely creates a realistic look at firemen that is believable, but not scary, and shows off teamwork in a subtle and impressive manner.

    • by Tibor Gergely
    • Fire trucks
    • First published in 1950
    • The Moral of the Story? Teamwork
  • Tootle the Train

    Tom says: Before Thomas the Tank Engine, there was Tootle. Far, far away in Lower Trainswitch is where the little engines go to learn how to become big engines. The most important lesson they teach is "Staying on the rails no matter what!" Tootle wants to be a big engine one day, but he just can't stay on the tracks - he's racing horses through the field, running through patches of buttercups or chasing butterflies in the meadow. But Bill the old engineer has a plan and enlists everyone in town to help him teach Tootle a gentle lesson that will keep him on the rails. The lesson is also applicable to schoolwork and the school setting will strike a chord with young readers. Gergely's artwork is, as always, fun and refreshing. He's one of the few artists who can make a train as happy as a little kid while it's bouncing through a meadow.

    • by Gertrude Crampton and Tibor Gergely
    • Over 9 million copies sold
    • First published in 1945
    • The Moral of the Story? Listening
  • The Little Red Caboose

    Tom says: Here comes the train again! Every time the train rolls through a town, people stop to watch all the cars - the big engine, the box cars, the oil cars and the flat cars. But by the time the caboose rolls past, the crowd has lost interest. The little red caboose wishes that he was one of the other cars or even the big engine so he wouldn't have to be last. But when the train gets in trouble going up a steep mountain, the Little Red Caboose proves he has an important job to do. Marian Potter's story has a timeless lesson and once again Tibor Gergely creates double-page spreads of excitement, illustrating different landscapes for the caboose's travels.

    • by Marian Potter and Tibor Gergely
    • Trains!
    • First published in 1953
    • The Moral of the Story? Every Job Is Important

You will be happy with any of these

  • The Happy Man And His Dump Truck

    Tom says: A happy man has a giant dump truck and he spends the day giving a fun ride to a bunch of farm animals. As the dumper rises and lowers, the animals are given the ride of their lives. There's not much story here, but the book is a lot of infectious fun. Tibor Gergely's illustrations are always a delight and even his realistic machines always seem to have personality. This is a true classic that's really all about playing and having fun.

    • by Tibor Gergely!
    • First published in 1950
    • The Moral of the Story? Joyriding!
  • The Little Red Hen

    Tom says: The Little Red Hen finds a grain of wheat and looks for help to plant it. Unfortunately, no one in the barnyard - duck, goose, cat, pig - will lend a hand. They also won't help her harvest it, mill it, turn the flour to dough or bake it into bread. Naturally, they all want to help eat it, but the Little Red Hen teaches the selfish animals a lesson by rewarding herself and her chicks for all her hard work. Realistically detailed animal artwork by Rudolf Freund teaches a strong lesson about the selfishness of others.

    • by Rudolf Freund
    • Chickens
    • First published in 1942
    • The Moral of the Story? Helping Others
  • The Shy Little Kitten

    Tom says: When a shy little kitten is separated from her siblings, she finds her way home by learning to make friends with a mole, a frog, a puppy, and a squirrel. No longer shy, she acknowledges that this was her best day ever. Beautifully illustrated by veteran Disney animation artist Gustaf Tenggren, "The Shy Little Kitten" is a subtle lesson in the importance of friends.

    • by Cathleen Schurr and Gustaf Tenggren
    • Kittens
    • First published in 1946
    • The Moral of the Story? Overcoming Shyness by Making Friends
  • Things I Like

    Tom says: A very happy book from the creator of "Goodnight Moon." Margaret Wise Brown's rhymes have a cheerful Seussian rhythm as she details things that kids will like. From cars to trains, snow to boats, whistles and people, she creates a list that no one could ever find fault with. Illustrator Garth Williams illustrated such classics as "Charlotte's Web" and "Stuart Little." Without a narrative structure to follow, Williams creates a series of humorous double-page spreads filled with comic detail, bright colors and fun animal (and people) activity.

    • by Margaret Wise Brown and Garth Williams
    • From The Creator of “Goodnight Moon”
    • First published in 1954
    • The Moral of the Story? Rhyming Fun
  • The Saggy, Baggy Elephant

    Tom says: An elephant named Sooki doesn't know he's an elephant. All he knows is that he lives alone and likes to dance and kick his feet. After he nearly shakes the jungle to pieces, a parrot points out that he's never seen anything like Sooki: his ears are too big and his skin's too saggy. Sooki tries to change his appearance and some hungry jungle creatures are all too eager to "help" him. Their failure to make a meal of Sooki helps the saggy, baggy elephant discover who he really is and find others like him. Younger children might be a little fearful of the fact that several of the animals - a tiger, a crocodile, and a lion - happily offer to eat Sooki! However, it's presented in a somewhat playful style with both the writing and the colorful and cartoony illustrations by Gustaf Tenggren.

    • by K. and B. Jackson and Gustaf Tenggren
    • Elephants
    • First published in 1947
    • The Moral of the Story? Be Yourself

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