The Poky Little Puppy made its debut in 1942 as one of the 12 original Little Golden Books with sweet, brightly colored illustrations by Gustav Tenggren. In the book, author Janette Sebring Lowrey tells the story of five curious little puppies that dig a hole under a fence to explore the wide, wide world. Illustrations from the book were included in a Little Golden Book exhibition mounted by the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature 15 years ago.
Like the puppies, the exhibition traveled the wide, wide world, becoming one of the museum’s most successful traveling exhibits ever, said Trish Dressen, the NCCIL’s executive director. In honor of the 80th anniversary of Little Golden Books in 2022, the NCCIL has given the exhibition a facelift and is relaunching it Oct. 14 with the Abilene museum being the first stop on its new tour. Anticipation for the exhibit is high because Little Golden Books have retained their popularity, with more than 1,000 titles printed.
“These are classics that never go out of style,” Dressen said.
“Golden Legacy: 80 Years of Original Art from Golden Books” will be on display at the NCCIL in downtown Abilene through the week of Christmas before it moves to the Pennsylvania College of Technology in January. Dressen said Little Golden Books are an “impactful and vital” part of children’s literacy. The exhibition was curated 15 years ago by children’s picture book historian Leonard Marcus and Golden Books editorial director Diane Muldrow. It was only updated once during that time. The new exhibition, under the direction of Debbie Lillick, increased from 60 pieces to close to 80 and includes new art from Golden Book artists and reframed pieces to freshen the tour and make it even more relevant to today, Dressen said.
“I’m nostalgic for those stories right now as my own kiddos grow up, and certainly even grandparents are,” she said. “We posted something on social media a few weeks ago and it was one of the most engaged posts of the whole year, and it was just a sneak peek.”
People are looking forward to books they adored growing up that are featured in the exhibition, including Home for Bunny, The Color Kittens, I Can Fly and Prayers for Children. “Those are pieces of art I still remember vividly at my grandmother’s house or my mom pulling out at bedtime,” Dressen said.
The exhibition opening Oct. 14 will be a virtual one due to COVID numbers in Taylor County. Dressen said the museum is planning live dramatic book readings, which people can watch online, a virtual gallery tour and take-n-make art activities. The gallery is open regular hours, but all programming is currently suspended. The museum hopes to offer in person and virtual gallery tours for schools while the exhibition is on display along with an art activity children can do related to Golden Book artist Bob Staake. Check the NCCIL’s website or Facebook page for the latest information.
Little Golden Books and Golden Book sets are for sale in the NCCIL gift shop.
By Sidney Schuhmann Levesque