The left took over an important cultural institution while you weren’t looking
If you were raised in America, you probably grew up reading books published in the “Little Golden Books” series. It’s likely, too, that parents associate that label with trusted and wholesome products. Well, they’re probably still wholesome (no sex, obscenities, or other nasty things in these books), but recent content has taken both a shallow and a leftward turn, with the Little Golden Books starting early to turn your kids on to pop culture and to “wokify” them.
The Little Golden Books debuted in 1942 as durable, colorful children’s books that would sell for 25 cents to bring reading to the mass market. The first books set a lasting template: They were about basic education (the alphabet, objects, counting), faith (prayers), and morally or practically good behavior (The Little Red Hen). Here’s that list of the first Little Golden Books released in October 1942, all of which were huge successes:
1. Three Little Kittens, by Marie Simchow Stern
2. Bedtime Stories, illus. Gustaf Tenggren
3. Mother Goose, by Phyllis Fraser, illus. Gertrude E. Espenscheid
4. Prayers for Children, by Rachel Taft Dixon
5. The Little Red Hen, illus. Rudolf Freund
6. Nursery Songs, by Leah Gale, illus. Corinne Malvern
7. The Alphabet from A to Z, by Leah Gale, illus. Vivienne Blake and Richard Peck
8. The Poky Little Puppy, by Janette Sebring Lowrey, illus. Gustaf Tenggren
9. The Golden Book of Fairy Tales, by Winfield Scott Hoskins
10.Baby's Book of Objects
11.The Animals of Farmer Jones, by Leah Gale, illus. Richard Scarry
12.This Little Piggy and Other Counting Rhymes, by Phyllis Cerf Wagner, illus. Roberta Harris Pfafflin Petty
Later books celebrated work and American presidents, and other accomplished Americans.
Little Golden Books still exists—it’s now a Penguin Random House imprint—and it’s still selling educational books and books about faith. However, with America’s publishing houses firmly under the control of college graduates who majored in leftist indoctrination, the education and faith aspects have merged into wokism, with little children set up to worship everything from Mother Gaia to Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
It’s notable that the very first thing you see on the imprint’s homepage is a book entitled Happy Earth Day.
The publishing house still sells classics such as The Poky Little Puppy and The Little Red Hen. Incidentally, the former is “the single all-time best-selling hardcover children’s book in the U.S., having sold nearly 15 million copies.” No one is going to give up on that goldmine.
It’s the recent books that should be eye-openers for parents who associate Little Golden Books with traditional values. There are some valuable books that teach children about their world, including famous people who are even conservative—there’s a soon-to-be-released Ronald Reagan biography because the publication does presidents—but most of the recent books celebrate pop culture, like a People Magazine for the younger set, along with relentless "diversity."
The new imprints include books about Oprah, The Bee Gees, Rita Morena, Dwayne Johnson, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, and more. It’s a total People Magazine vibe that I suspect, without having read the books, allows opportunities for sharing lessons about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Maybe these titles entice children to read but uplifting? Not hardly.
Image: Child reading by Tim Pierce. CC BY 2.0.
And then there’s the wokeism, which revolves around race, equity, and climate change: Firehouse Rainbow; about racially diverse firefighters; We Are Afro Unicorns, about minority unicorns; Our Beautiful Colors, a book that “doesn’t just teach colors—it does so with a focus on brown as a celebration and a validation of Black children”; the aforementioned Happy Earth Day; and I Am Thankful, which sounds like that original prayer book but, instead, has children “in this wonderfully-diverse classroom” give thanks for cookies and cat licks.
In some ways, though, the saddest thing in the catalog is the cross-marketing for Hollywood. Disney had a tie-in with the Little Golden Books very early, but now it’s Disney/Pixar, the Hulk, Captain Marvel, Back to the Future, Jaws, you name it… The whole thing is just kind of tawdry.
I understand that everything changes. Europe, which froze itself in amber after WWII to make money as a tourist destination for rich Americans, shows how dangerous this kind of stagnation can be, especially because the culture stopped reproducing. Still, it’s sad to see a book series that introduced children to core ethical concepts and stories that have long underpinned the west (even if run through the Disney shop) work hard to jumpstart children’s obsession with shallow, often debasing and almost never ethically uplifting pop culture and woke concepts.