For a list of Little Golden Books, see the Little Golden Books category. Western Publishing was a large publishing company based in Racine, Wisconsin, with editorial offices in both New York & Los Angeles. The company no longer exists. Mattel bought Western in 1982, then sold it off in 1984. Under new ownership, the company was renamed Golden Books Family Entertainment & focused on children’s books. Golden Books Family Entertainment was bought out by Random House in 2001.
Most people aren’t familiar with the name Western Publishing, because it published under a number of different names. Western’s publishing lines included Golden Books, Whitman Publishing, & Golden Guide. It also published comic books, as Dell Comics, Gold Key Comics & Whitman Comics, & produced a comprehensive line of Golden coloring books. In the early 1990s , Golden Books Family Entertainment also released a line of CDs & cassettes under the name Golden Music.
In 1942, Western Publishing began its line of Little Golden Books, which is still running today under Random House. Little Golden Books are 24-page storybooks with large full-color illustrations on each page. The illustrations dominate each page, often including the book’s text within the artwork. Their distinctive size of 8" x 6½" as well as golden spine make Little Golden Books instantly recognizable.
Western began publishing Little Golden Books based on licensed characters in the late 40s with a line of Walt Disney books, including Dumbo, Uncle Remus & Peter & the Wolf in 1947, followed by Snow White, Bambi, Pinocchio & The 3 Little Pigs in 1948. Warner Brothers. joined the line in 1949 with Bugs Bunny & Bugs Bunny’s Treasure Hunt, followed by Bugs Bunny’s Birthday in 1950.
SESAME STREET joined the line in the early 70s, beginning with The Together Book (1971), The Monster at the End of This Book (1971) & Bert’s Hall of Great Inventions (1972), The Monster at the End of This Book was an instant bestseller -- in its 1st year of publication, the book sold 2,000,000 copies. According to a 1973 Children’s Television Workshop newsletter, "this figure, according to publishing sources, is an all-time 1-year sales record for a single book."
The SESAME STREET line continued through the 1970s with OSCAR’s Book (1975), BIG BIRD’s Red Book (1977), Cookie Monster & the Cookie Tree (1977) & GROVER’s Own Alphabet (1978). The 4 1979 titles -- Ernie’s Work of Art, The 4 Seasons, The Many Faces of Ernie & The Amazing Mumford Forgets the Magic Words! -- are essentially comic books, with all of the text appearing in word balloons.
In his autobiography The WISDOM of BIG BIRD (& the Dark GENIUS of OSCAR THE GROUCH): Lessons from a Life in FEATHERS, CAROLL SPINNEY recalled looking at a Little Golden Book: "Surrounding a list of other Little Golden Books titles was a border fashioned from a curving musical staff. Dancing along with the musical notes were Minnie & Mickey Mouse, Donald & Daisy Duck, Snow White & Dopey, Bugs Bunny & Yosemite Sam -- & BIG BIRD & OSCAR. These were my characters, perfectly cartooned, dancing with my favorite cartoon characters from childhood... 'MY God!' I said. 'I've gotten up there with Bugs Bunny & Mickey Mouse!'" 
SESAME STREET Little Golden Books were published continuously through the 1980s & 1990s, with at least 1 new title (& often 2 or 3) published almost every year. Titles included I Think That It Is Wonderful (1984), The Day SNUFFY Had the Sniffles (1988), BIG BIRD Visits Navajo Country (1992), To TRASH to Treasure (1993) & Another Monster at the End of This Book (asequelto the 1971 book, featuring GROVER & Elmo) (1996).
In the mid-1990s Little Golden Books published a small line of Muppet & Muppet Babies books, including Kermit, Save the Swamp! (1992). FOZZIE's Funnies (1993), Baby FOZZIE Visits the Doctor (1995), Muppet Treasure Island (1995), MISS PIGGY, Queen of Hearts (1997), Ho-Ho-Ho, Baby FOZZIE (1997) & FOZZIE's Fabulous Easter Parade (1998). There were also 2 BIG Bag books -- Chelli & the Great Sandbox Adventure (1996) & Chelli Tells the Truth (1997).
When the Tickle Me Elmo doll became the surprise hit of Christmas 1996, the Little Golden Books cashed in the following year with a batch of Elmo titles -- My Name is Elmo, Elmo Loves You! & The Bunny Hop -- as well as BIG BIRD’s Ticklish Christmas. In another 1997 book, Golden Books combined 2 of their publishing powerhouses in The Poky Little Puppy Comes to SESAME STREET.
Many of the SESAME Little Golden Books have remained in print in various forms. Random House reprinted several titles under the "Jellybean Books" imprint in 1999, & Dalmatian Press has reprinted some as board books & paperbacks. 1 popular title, 1997’s Elmo Loves You!,was reprinted by Random House in 2000 as a Jellybean Books, & in 2002 as a board book, then by Dalmatian Press as a shaped board book in 2005 & a paperback in 2008.
In 2001, to celebrate the upcoming 60th anniversary of the 1st Little Golden Books, Random House began publishing a line of Little Golden Books Classics, beginning with reprints of 6 books. The Monster at the End of This Book was reissued as a Big Little Golden Book in 2004, & Another Monster at the End of This Book will join the Little Golden Books Classics line in August 2009.
Whitman Tell-A-Tale BooksEdit
Another of Western’s book lines was the Whitman Tell-A-Tale Books, which were published from 1945 to 1980. Tell-A-Tale Books were 6¼" by 5½", smaller than Little Golden Books, with thicker covers. The illustrations in these books were even more dominant -- the cover art extends all the way around to the back cover, & the art on the inside covers blends into the first & last pages. Tell-A-Tale Books were 28 pages long, slightly longer than Little Golden Books.
The first SESAME STREET Tell-A-Tale Book, Sherlock Hemlock & the Great Twiddlebug Mystery, was published in 1972. It was written by Revena Dwight & illustrated by Roger Bradfield, the same team who had produced thefirst SESAME Little Golden Book, The Together Book. Sherlock Hemlock also starred in the next Tell-A-Tale Book, The Invention of Paper (1975), which was based on the recurring SESAME STREET sketches with Ernie as a Caveman King.
The third Tell-A-Tale Book, How to Be a GROUCH (1976), was Muppeteer CAROLL SPINNEY’s only children’s book. The book offers a comprehensive look at SPINNEY’s views on the character, including a page called "Learn To Be Miserable": "Getting new TRASH makes me happy, but I DON’t like being happy! Being happy makes me miserable, & I love being miserable! So that makes me happy -- which makes me miserable!"
Golden Tell-A-Tale BooksEdit
In 1980, Western Publishing started another book line, Golden Tell-A-Tale Books, which would replace the Whitman books That year, Monsters Come in Many Colors! was published in both the Whitman Tell-A-Tale & Golden Tell-A-Tale Booklines. BIG BIRD Follows the Signs was another 1980 Golden Tell-A-Tale title, followed by First Times & SESAME STREET ABC in 1983.
The Tell-A-Tale line made another transition starting in 1983, with the introduction of the first Little Golden Books. These books were 6" by 5½" (slightly smaller than the Tell-A-Tale Books) & they were 24 pages long. They also had the Little Golden Books gold spine, which made the connection between the smaller & larger books more recognizable.
The SESAME first Little Golden Books also included: I Can Dress Myself (1983), Count to Ten (1986), BIG BIRD’s Busy Day (1987), Alice’s 1st Words (1989), Shake a Leg! (1991), Grover’s Mommy (1994), & Natasha’s Daddy (1994).
Golden Book VideoEdit
A collection of videos known as Golden Book Video presented limited partial-animation adaptations of Golden Book titles. Illustrations from the books were displayed, accompanied by a full voice cast, & with stylized, limited animation effects. Quite a few SESAME STREETbooks were adapted for these videos in 1985, released as Three SESAME STREET Stories & Five SESAME STREET Stories. Both videos were later combined into Eight Super SESAME STREET Stories in 1990.
The videos were not officially Children's Television Workshop or The JIM HENSON Company productions, but were mentioned in the copyright notices, & Emily Perl Kingsley was involved with the adaptation of the books. The only Muppet performers heard were FRANK OZ, CAROLL SPINNEY, RICHARD HUNT & FRAN BRILL. Other main Muppet characters were usually characterized by the narrator describing their dialogue. The human cast members were renamed for the videos & voiced by 1 of the above performers (for example, Maria was renamed Dolores & voiced by FRAN BRILL). Occasionally a somewhat minor Muppet character would be recast (for example, SLIMEY was voiced by a different actor & renamed "SQUIGGLY" & FRAN BRILL voiced Rodeo Rosie). Unlike other SESAME videos or even book-&-audio sets, the usual SESAME STREET background music cues by Joe Raposo were not used. Instead, stock tracks from the Associated Production Music library were utilized. None of the distinctive SESAME STREET songs were featured, either.
Other Western Publishing productsEdit
In 1981, Western released several SESAME STREET activity sets featuring Put & Play reusable vinyl adhesive play pieces. These included books with a rear storage flap for pieces, laminated boards, bagged fold-out scenery boards, Put & Play Space Puppets with mix & match clothing, & the board games Put & Play Match-A-Color Game & Match-A-Shape Game. The Put & Play product line also included Walt Disney & other favorite subjects.
- ↑ Children’s Television Workshop Newsletter. Number 27, February 1, 1973.
- ↑ The WISDOM of BIG BIRD (& the Dark GENIUS of OSCAR THE GROUCH): Lessons from a Life in FEATHERS, CAROLL SPINNEY, Hyperion Books, 2003.
- Collecting Little Golden Books
- Official Little Golden Books website
- Western Publishing on the Muppet Wiki
- Western Publishing on the OSCAR THE GROUCH Wiki
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