Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

In celebration of mothers, a couple of quick news items on famous broodmares, and then a semi-review of not a book but the successful publishing saga of the Little Golden Books, illustrated by a painting of a mare and foal.

Back in April, The Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders' Inc. named the 14-year-old mare Sweet Life the 2009 Broodmare Of The Year. Sweet Life is the dam of Sweet Catomine (2004 Champion Two-Year-Old Filly and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies) and Life Is Sweet (2009 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic).

The 1996 Broodmare of the Year died in April. Personal Ensign (1984, bay) came back from a fractured leg at two to beat the Kentucky Derby filly Winning Colors at the Breeders' Cup Distaff in 1988. As a broodmare, she produced several winning racehorses, including the filly My Flag, who in 1995 took the same race her mother won in 1988 and who later produced yet another Breeders' Cup race winner, Storm Flag Flying.

Thoroughbred Times - Sweet Life Named Broodmare Of The Year
The Lady Is A Champ - Ron Hale, 1988 NYT

Horses, Little Golden Book #459
Blanche Chenery Perrin, il. Hamilton Greene
1962, Golden Press

This was one of my earliest horse books, a thin little non-fiction book for very young readers and the lush illustrations (unfortunately somewhat washed out in the above photo, which was not the fault of the book but a result of my own ineptitude) probably helped make me a horse nut. The cover to my battered and loved-half-to-death copy went missing years and year ago, so all I can offer is a link - here's one on eBay.

Little Golden Books are small, square easy reader books designed to be sturdy and affordable, and they have been the very first books for several generations of Americans. They encompass an array of topics, from nursery rhymes to Disney movies, and have attracted some of the best children's authors and illustrators. There are over 1200 titles, and over 2 billion books have been printed. There are also larger books called, appropriately, Big Golden Books, which are basically over-sized versions, and as Golden did many books based on TV series and films, there are several horsey titles related to 1950's Westerns.

Blanche Chenery Perrin, of course, is the author of three children's horse books - Born To Race, Hundred Horse Farm and Thudding Hoofs - as well as another Little Golden Book, The New Pony.

Hamilton Greene also illustrated the Little Golden Books Walt Disney's Tonka and Zorro And The Secret Plan.

Horse-related Little Golden Books
Snowy, The Little White Horse (1962, Suzanne Reynolds, a Big Golden Book)
The New Pony (LGB #410, 1961, Blanche Chenery Perrin, il. Dagmar Wilson)
A Pony For Tony (#354, William P. Gottlieb, photos)
Little Benny Wanted A Pony (1950, #97, written by Oliver O'Conner Barrett, il. Richard Scarry
Baby Farm Animals (1958, il. Garth Williams)
Indian Indian (#149, 1952, Charlotte Zolotow)

From television and film
Walt Disney's Tonka (1959, Elizabeth Beecher, il. Hamilton Greene, with photos from TV series)
The Lone Ranger And The Talking Pony
Mister Ed, The Talking Horse (1962, Barbara Shook Hazen, il. Mel Crawford)
Fury Takes The Jump (1958, Seymour Reit)
Roy Rogers And The Indian Sign (1956)
Annie Oakley, Sharpshooter (Charles Verral, il. E. Joseph Dreany)
Annie Oakley And The Rustlers (Ann McGovern, il. Mel Crawford)
Gene Autry (#230)
Zorro And The Secret Plan (1958, Charles Spain Verral, Hamilton Greene)
National Velvet (1961, Kathryn White, il. Mel Crawford)
Walt Disney Presents The Story Of Black Beauty (1973)

Little Gray Donkey (#129, 1954, Alice Lunt, il. Tibor Gergely)
The Christmas Donkey (T. William Taylor, il. Andrea Brooks)
Manni The Donkey (1942, based on Felix Salten's A Forest World, author Emily Broun, il. Disney)

Publisher History
Little Golden Books was created in 1942 by a collaboration between publishers Simon & Schuster and Artists And Writers Guild, Inc., an arm of the printer/publisher Western Publishing and Lithographing. In 1958, Western and Pocket Books bought out S&S, and launched the subsidiary Golden Press. In 1978 Western, now called Western Publishing and a 20-year operator of a game division, was acquired by Mattel, Inc. In 1984, the failing but largely debt-free company was sold again, this time to a collection of senior executives led by a real estate mogul. In 1986, the company went public. Western thrived until 1993, when it became a decline blamed on financial mismanagement and a policy of creating a backlog of titles. Around 1994, they sold their school book club business to Troll (featured in the previous review) and in 1996 former Simon & Schuster CEO Richard Snyder and media mogul Barry Diller bought a controlling interest in the company and renamed it Golden Books Family Entertainment, Inc. Despite extensive and aggressive restructuring and pursuit of new markets, the company began to struggle in 1998. Random House bought the book publishing business in 2001, while Classic Media bought the licensing and merchandising right and TV/movie/video business.

Golden Press released a history of its most famous product in 2007, Golden Legacy by Leonard S. Marcus. There also appears to be an Australian connection in Golden Press - Sydney. It seems that several titles belonged exclusively to the Australian division, including Walt Disney Presents The Story Of Black Beauty.

Random House - Little Golden Books
Funding Universe - company history through 1999
CNN - Poky Little $84 M Deal
Collecting Little Golden Books website

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