January 17, 2007


My favorite thing about Little Golden Books has always been the back cover. After an enjoyable read such as The Monster at the End of This Book the art on back served as a literary dessert of sorts. Its lure was inescapable and I became a loyal student of that Golden parade of licensed characters. And so I present you with four variations of their rearmost illustrations. (They enlarge when you click 'em.)

The logo takes on a life-giving quality in this gorgeous ensemble. The eyeballed 'gb' looks onward as the crowd revels in its warmth. It's a picture perfect world; A cat touches up the paint job, a fireman inspects every detail, and the little bear has never slept better. The only thing even close to troubling is the sight of Donald Duck delighting in the fact that Tootle the Train is spilling coal.

Mid 1970s (copyright date was torn out)
Now this was the tale that I longed to read! The one where every last Golden Book personality embarks on an epic cross-country adventure by rail.
It's a story peppered with sidesplitting banter between Bugs and Micky who share adjacent train cars. It would include the riveting explanation behind Raggedy Ann and Bambi's dismissal from the train. And readers would struggle to maintain their composure as the tug boat experiences the spectacles of the landlocked American countryside for the very first time.

Suddenly.. it's Big Bird. And sorry kitty, you're old news. Enter a couple of real metropolitan hipsters.. Bert and Ernie. Bert's a staunch traditionalist.. a real square type. Watch as his button-down world gets shattered by Ernie's all-out, in-your-face outrageousness! Together they're the original odd couple.

Inevitably the aesthetics fell apart in the late 80s. In a most disturbing move, Tootle the Train has donned a Hawaiian lei. These days I find myself delighting in the fact that he's still spilling coal.


Smurfwreck said...

You know, the tug boat apparently became addicted to rail travel, either that or none of the other characters ever cared to help him off that crazy train.

I think I mostly had the '77 version on my books, though I had a couple of the earlier ones that were handed down by my sister.

ErosLane said...

Poor kitty.

I'm still trying to figure out where Fruitpie the Magician went on the Hostess Fruitpies label.

One day he was there, then he wasn't.

I suspect David Blaine.

Monkey Groupie said...

I LOVE Little Golden Books. One of my mom's friends brought me one every week when she came to visit, and I amassed quite a collection! I'll always remember The Saggy, Baggy Elephant, The Poky Little Puppy and The Monster at the End of This Book. Thanks for sharing. :)

Kirk D. said...

smurfwreck- ha! how did I miss that.
Tug boat has gotten soooo lazy.
Yeah, the '77 one was the main one in my life too.

eroslane- Rest in Peace Fruitpie.
it's always disconcerting when only one of a group of mascots goes MIA.
I'd like to think that Fruitpie and Mayor McCheese are out there somewhere plotting their revenge.

monkey groupie- How is it that I've still never read Poky Little Puppy? It seems to be like, the quintessential Golden Book. Glad you enjoyed the post.

Marty Weil said...

I'm a fan of your ephemera posts...you have a great collection. Keep featuring it. Kindred spirits, I think.

Kirk D. said...

Thanks Marty! I'm planning on lots more ephemera related posts in the not-too-distant future, so keep your eyes peeled.

G.B. said...

Believe it or not, there is in fact such a Golden Book story about that famous back cover train ride. Well, sort of. It was a Golden Book published in 1989 called "Welcome To Little Golden Book Land" by Cindy West and illustrated by Mateu. The story is about the classic characters such as the Shy Little Kitten, Pokey Little Puppy, Tawny Scrawny Lion, Scuffy, and Saggy Baggy Elephant asking Tootle to take them on a train trip to see all of Golden Book Land instead of their usual limited territory. However, MISSING from this story are Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny Raggedy Ann and Bambi. Also missing are the little bunny, duckling, and the later Sesame Street characters. Still, the story is clearly based on the 1970's back cover!

What's fascinating is that I found this Golden Book just a couple days after I read your blog about Golden Books and their back covers!

BTW, my initials do not stand for "Golden Book". LOL

Kirk D. said...

Dear Golden Book (just kidding)

Wow, thanks for the fascinating info!
I'll totally keep an eye out for that one so I can finally fulfill my childhood longing to know that story.
That's such a funny idea, but a great one. I wonder if it was a response to the demand of other kids like me.

Anonymous said...

I would like to thank those of you who enjoyed the Tootle Stories......imagine my families surprise when he looked very familiar, though renamed Thomas the Tank Engine...... Western Publishing had a printing shop off Allen Parkway....3333 Allen Parkway now, Tootle was born there and he will always be a burden on my heart since it was painfully obvious he was also Thomas......It is just part of a long story of blatant thieves in my opinion.......but when you consider our banking system has no honor, nor does even our most luxury branded stores like Neiman Marcus, which has been selling old samples many of us who have a lot of talent and owned many of those real companies......well, that is our middle finger to all you "smart" Baby Boomers or fake WW part 15 heros...........