I love my Little Golden Books. They are - pardon me - GOLDEN to me. They may have been started as a cheap way to get more books into the homes of post-war youngsters, at a time when children's books were expensive and only marketed at Christmas. But the art! The details! I cannot recommend Leonard Marcus's book Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became an American Icon Along the Way highly enough. (Random House, 2007)
Little Golden Books were not the first cheap, mass-market children's books - the first were published by the same company, Whitman, and called the Big Little Books - but Golden Books were of a much finer quality, and not restricted to popular movie, comic, and radio tie-ins. And of course, they were not the last. They ushered in a whole new era of children's publishing.
Some of the most popular mass-market picture book lines to emerge in the wake of Little Golden Books' success were the Elf and Junior Elf series, published by Rand McNally, and the Tell-A-Tale books by Whitman. Between my grandmother (and her beloved yard and estate sales) and eBay, I've amassed a decent collection of Elf and Tell-A-Tale books. I have more than these - somewhere I have the adorable Owl and the Pussycat - but as you can see, these books are rather small and tend to walk away from our designated spot between the deer bookends.