Thursday, July 02, 2009


Over on the child_lit listserv, a subscriber posted a link to an online article in The Weekly Standard. Titled "Picture Perfect," the article is about an exhibit of the Little Golden Books. Here's the excerpt that caught my eye:

"The great Leonard Weisgard--who painted covers for the New Yorker before he was 20 and whose half-century career ranged far and wide--illustrated another Margaret Wise Brown classic, Pussy Willow, for Little Golden Books. Even more arresting than his painting of the soft grey kitten peering up between grasses and wild strawberries at a grasshopper in flight is his picture for Indian, Indian: a black-haired, clay-colored little boy encountering a recumbent white horse with flowing mane, full of power and grace, in a field of daisies.

It is surprising how undated these pictures are. A few images and titles are politically incorrect by present standards. Doctor Dan the Bandage Man's counterpart is, I'm afraid, Nurse Nancy. And the traditional family ideal implicit in We Help Mommy, We Help Daddy, and The Happy Family--whose cover shows a girl in a dress picking flowers from a flower bed and a boy pushing a hand mower across the surrounding lawn--has taken a beating in the decades since these books appeared."

Did you notice what Anderson found arresting? Undated? Does she not know about stereotyping of American Indians? Is that why she didn't include Indian, Indian in the second paragraph? For your reference, you can see the photo she found so arresting here.

There's a lot of "Indians" in the Little Golden Books... Here's some titles:

Rin Tin Tin and the Lost Indian
Brave Eagle
Roy Rogers and the Indian Sign
I'm an Indian Today

I've got to get all these books and scan the images...

UPDATE, 3:32, 7/2/2009
The books I listed above are old. To my knowledge they are no longer in print. You can still get them through used bookstores. LITTLE GOLDEN BOOKS does, however, continue to publish Indian imagery in its books. One example is their Peter Pan book, which is based on Disney's film. Click here to see images from that book, and click here to see my post about I'm an Indian Today (published in 1961).


Damian Baca said...

Thank you for posting this. I look forward to the scans and your follow-up comments. I'm surprised that this sort of material is still in circulation. Sadly, perhaps I shouldn't be surprised at all.

Debbie Reese said...


My apologies. All of the books I listed are not, to my knowledge, still being printed by LITTLE GOLDEN BOOKS. They are still available through used and rare bookstores.

What is troubling is the reporter's take on the exhibit of the books.

And of course, images LIKE them still appear in new children's books. New stories, old Indian images, IF we can call those images Indian.

The GOLDEN BOOK of Peter Pan, I am sure, is still available as a new book.

Anonymous said...

I found your site because I was looking for a Little Golden Book I had as a child (late 70s). I actually was curious because I remember an illustration of caucasian, asian & American indian babies in a basket & they remark on their color (pink, yellow & red?), and by todays standards that would no longer be allowed in a childrens book. I also remember the rhyming between caboose & papoose. But I don't know the name....

Anonymous said...

I am trying to find a Little Golden Book about a little Indian boy and buffalo. he ran crying ie ow ee ou
(phonitic spelling). I can't remember the name but I'm sure it was published in the 40's