Golden Legacy

Golden LegacyGolden Legacy by Leonard Marcus. Published by Golden Books, Inc., 2007. 245 pages.


The Golden Age Revealed

Leonard Marcus occupies a unique niche in the book world. With Dear Genius and now Golden Legacy, he has become the historian of American children’s publishing. Golden Legacy explores the rich saga of arguably the most famous children’s book publisher of the twentieth century. While Harper and Random House were counting annual press runs in thousands, Golden was publishing millions of children’s books in the same period.

The founders of the Western Publishing and Lithographing Company got into books by a side door when a client went bankrupt and left them with loads of books in lieu of payment. They hired Samuel Lowe to move the books and Samuel Lowe ended up by moving the company firmly and successfully into children’s book publishing. With the talented Lucille Ogle at the helm and numerous talented éigré artists from Europe, plus a clear commitment to excellence by virtue of an association with Dr. Mary Reed of Columbia, Golden became the standard book by which others were judged.

By children, that is. Not by the reviewers and librarians. The reviewers could not take 25 cent books seriously. Marcus demonstrates how Golden Books built a nation of readers through their sheer availability and inexpensiveness. It is a sweet moment when Golden’s detractors find themselves decades later offering to do celebratory treasuries and art exhibits.

Golden Legacy is punctuated by memories of Golden Books by some of today’s top illustrators, explaining the brilliance of the art that captivated them as children and inspired them to become the artists they are now. Golden Legacy is a must read for anyone who has an interest in the history of education.

Marcus shows us that Golden is more than The Poky Little Puppy, as universally loved as that perennial bestseller is. Every page enriches our understanding of this golden age of children’s book publishing not only through words but the lavish use of Golden covers and illustrations. Marcus has rescued Lucille Ogle from obscurity in much the same way he celebrated the enabling genius of Ursula Nordstrom in his earlier work.

Without such strong and visionary leaders, the children’s book world would not be the exciting and creative place it is today. Golden Legacy inspires those who work with children and use children’s books to bring the same level of commitment and innovation.

– Ellen Myrick