The Marginalian
The Marginalian

Everything I Need To Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book: Grown-up Advice on Modern Life from Vintage Children’s Books

As an enormous lover of vintage children’s books, I was instantly smitten with Everything I Need To Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book (public library) — a semi-serious, playful and practical guide to life culling wisdom for modern grown-ups from the iconic Little Golden Books series of mid-century children’s books. From mental and physical health to money to relationships, this charming compendium captions and reframes vibrant vintage illustrations — many by artists whose talent was cultivated under legendary children’s book champion Ursula Nordstrom’s magnanimous wing — as little reminders about what it takes to live a happy and fulfilling life today.

The project is in many ways an organic extension of the Little Golden Book ethos, which has sustained generations through troubled times with creative nourishment for young souls. This compendium offers heartening solace for those weary of the hardships our world is currently facing. Diane Muldrow, longtime editor of the beloved children’s series, writes in the introduction:

We’ve been forced to look at ourselves and how we’re living our lives. Ironically, in this health-conscious, ecologically aware age of information, many of us have overborrowed, overspent, overeaten, and generally overdosed on habits or ways of life that aren’t good for us — or for our world. The chickens have come home to roost, and their names are Debt, Depression, and Diabetes.

How did we get here? How, like Tootle the Train, did we get so off track? Perhaps it’s time to revisit these beloved stories and start all over again. Trying to figure out where you belong, like Scuffy the Tugboat? Maybe, as time marches on, you’re beginning to feel that you resemble the Saggy Baggy Elephant.

Or perhaps your problems are more sweeping. Like the Poky Little Puppy, do you seem to be getting into trouble rather often and missing out on the strawberry shortcake in life? Maybe this book can help you! After all, Little Golden Books were first published during the dark days of World War II, and they’ve been comforting people during trying times ever since — while gently teaching us a thing or two. And they remind us that we’ve had the potential to be wise and content all along.

From ‘Circus Time’ by Marion Conger, illustrated by Tibor Gergely, 1948
From ‘The Seven Sneezes’ by Olga Cabral, illustrated by Tibor Gergely, 1948
From ‘Duck and His Friends’ by Kathryn and Byron Jackson, illustrated by Richard Scarry, 1949
From ‘Animal Gym’ by Beth Greiner Hoffman, illustrated by Tibor Gergely, 1956
From ‘I Can Fly’ by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Mary Blair, 1951
From ‘The Friendly Book’ by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Garth Williams, 1954
From ‘The Three Bears,’ illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky, 1948
From ‘The Color Kittens’ by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen, 1949
From ‘Tawny Scrawny Lion’ by Kathryn Jackson, illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren, 1952
From ‘The Little Red Hen,’ illustrated by J. P. Miller, 1954
From ‘The Musicians of Bremen,’ adapted from Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, illustrated by J. P. Miller, 1954

Everything I Need To Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book is an absolute delight. Complement it with some actual Golden Books, including I Can Fly by the great Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Disney’s Mary Blair, a lovely adaptation of Homer for young readers by creative power duo Alice and Martin Provensen, and perhaps the best of the bunch, The Little Golden Book of Words.

Published September 3, 2014




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