Text Box:The Mercury

Little Golden Books are love by generations of Australians for whom stories such
as Tootle and The 'Poky Little Puppy were their introduction to reading.
COL MACKAY reports that this year, Little' Golden Books 40th anniversary, will see
their 200 millionth book published.

Text Box: There's real  gold  in them thar little   mega-million titlesIN more than 15 years as an on-road salesman, Keith Watson never once had to use a sales pitch. In fact, his customers rushed him with
orders as soon as he walked through their doors.
The product Keith was selling was Little Golden Books. This year Golden Press, the company that publishes these little golden nuggets, will sell its 200 millionth Little Golden Book in Australia since the company was formed in Sydney 40 years ago.
Put end-to-end, that would make 40,000 km of books - enough to stretch around the globe. And it is also estimated, the sales figure will have doubled over the next 12 years.
Now the firm's national accounts manager, Mr Watson sat in his Birkenhead Point office this week and looked back on his salesman's dream job before he was promoted to executive status.
"I first joined Golden Press in 1968, and at that time Little Golden Books were the only children's books of their type in Australia,". he said. "That year we broke new ground in Australian publishing by be­coming the first company to put our own book stands into supermarkets.
"The idea caught on spread so fast that today we also have stands in just about every supermarket, bookshop, pharmacy., toy shop and news-agency in Australia - even in a lot of service stations.
-In my early years on the road, the average order I took from supermarkets was for between two and four gross of books. Recently, though, we received an order for 600,000 from the Coles group." -

Keith Watson

"I met a wonderful lot of people from all walks of life and most of them wanted to talk about Little Golden Books and tell me how much they and their children enjoyed them and discuss their favourite story or stories," he said.

THE most popular title since Little Golden Books first appeared in Australia in 1948 has been The Poky Little Puppy, which is believed to have sold around 6,000,000 copies.
Other big sellers include
The Animals of Farmer Jones, Mother Goose,, Tootle, Little Red Hen, Scuffy the Tugboat, Prayers for Children, Hansel and Gretel, Three Little Kit­tens, The Taxi That Hurried and Dump Truck.
"Kids all seem to have their personal favourites and grow very attached to them," Mr Watson said.
"I remember my eldest son had a copy of Dump Truck and over a couple of years read it so much it became very battered and dog-eared. But, when I tried to replace it with a new one, he just put it aside and continued to read his old copy."
Mr Watson said Golden Press tried to keep between 96 and 100 titles in publication at any one time in Australia, but the staff was continually frus­trated by calls for out-of-print favourites.

"Many of these calls are from grandmothers who remember reading a particular story to their children and enjoying it so much they want to buy a copy to read to their grandchildren," he said.
And a few of those grand­mothers were only small children when Little Golden Books had their peak selling year. That was in 1951, when 2.5 million books were sold in Australia. Startling figures for a population of 7.5 million. Mr Watson said the advent of television reduced sales, but Little Golden Books continued to be by far the most popular product of its kind and probably the biggest selling books pro rata in the country.
"We now also sell audio visual cassettes to allow parents to let their children watch the story on TV while they read the book to them," he said. "But even without state of the art technological assistance we're always flat out trying to print enough books to keep up with the demand."

    Former salesman Keith Watson with one of the Little Golden Books which have been first and favourite reading for millions of young Australians for 40 years.

Little Golden Books first reached the eager hands and minds of Aussie kids in 1948 after the late Jack Davis, a small local publisher, visited the United States looking for a product he believed would sell well in Australia.
At that time Little Golden Books, which had first appeared in America during World War II, had become a burgeoning success among American children and Davis immediately negotiated to bring the idea to Australia.
The first four titles to be printed here were Prayers for Children, The Animals of Far­mer Jones, The Lively Rabbit and Tootle. Selling at the equivalent of 9c a copy, -the first print of the books sold out in just over a week.
Today, the Little Golden Book line has expanded to more than 900 titles, with 300 titles constantly in print throughout the world and about 12 new titles annually. Aimed specifically at the 3 to 7 years age group, the titles range from classic and original stories to the adventures of cartoon characters.
Keith Watson says Golden Press has copies of all the original titles printed over the years, with the exception of one.

THAT is The Taxi That Hurried. But he is sure someone in Australia has an original copy and if they read this story, they might be able to contact Mr Watson.
"People are always getting
in touch with us to tell us
about Little Golden Books they've had for 35 years or so, but so far we've been unable to locate that elusive Little Taxi That Hurried," he said.
The magic attraction of Little Golden Books for children lies in the simplicity of the story, ease of reading and beautiful colour illustrations which spark a child's imagination.
"We also have the added sales advantage of having a converted market with parents who have read and loved the stories themselves as children and want to share the experience with their own kids," he said.
"But the definite big plus with the books are that they often provide a child with his or her first experience of education."
His recommendations for parents to make the most of their Little Golden Books for both themselves and their children, include:

"It also helps a lot if the child is sitting where he or she can see the pictures - the right way up," he said. "Our aim is for kids to get things in proper perspective from the outset.
"But we also want them to enjoy it while they're doing it."