Golden Legacy

Golden Legacy by Leonard S. Marcus. It seems to have become a habit that once each year I venture into the realm of non-fiction and nostalgia to find a title describing the history of a company or industry with relevance to my youth. Last year it was “The game makers : the story of Parker Brothers from Tiddledy Winks to Trivial Pursuit” by Philip E. Orbanes and in 2006 it was “The playmakers : amazing origins of timeless toys” by Tim Walsh. Orbanes’s book was quite good and Walsh’s history of the 20th century U.S. toy industry with lots of trivia about classic toys and games made my Book Awards list. In comparison, this year’s business biography of the Golden Books publishing empire was a disappointment.

The book is extremely well-researched and includes several hundred photographs of book covers and the people who created them. However, in looking at these images I discovered very few titles that I remember reading as a child and, therefore, the personal connection that I was anticipating did not materialize and my interest in the subject matter declined. Marcus spends entirely too much time listing almost every Golden Book title and the author and illustrator of each work. His year-by-year approach quickly becomes repetitive and dull. Of far more appeal is the first chapter on the foundation of the company (named the Western Printing and Lithographing Company) by Edward H. Wadewitz in Racine, Wisconsin with two of his brothers and printer, Roy A. Spencer. Also deserving of more pages were the company’s marketing agreements with partners such as Disney and Johnson & Johnson, its contentious relationship with certain librarians and literary critics and its financial decline in the 1980s and 90s.

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