Inspirational Tales:  A Little Golden Book Collection by various authors (Golden Books, 212 pages, $15.95).

Michael Taube

Editor’s Note: Part I, “Little Golden Books provide a big amount of inspiration,” Michael Taube’s review of six short books for children appeared in November.

A popular trend in children’s literature has been the release of inexpensive collections of classic stories, fairy tales, poems, and newer works. Random House has also followed suit with Little Golden Book collections of 9-10 stories on similar themes, including Animal Tales, Farm Tales, Friendly Tales and Sleepytime Tales.

Which brings us to Inspirational Tales. Ten classic and modern Little Golden Books have been combined in one volume that will delight both young and old. While there’s no specific division of subject matter in this collection, I would suggest there are three informal categories: religious tales, family-oriented tales, and inspirational tales.

The four religious stories are wonderfully written, beautifully illustrated and will bring smiles to little faces.  In particular, Prayers for Children, illustrated by Eloise Wilkin, is one of the original 12 Little Golden Books published on Oct. 1, 1942. Short passages from writers like Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas B. Pollock and Mary L. Duncan grace these pages and there are many lavish images of children and animals at play. This is a timeless classic, providing a small window into the religious values that families once valued – and, one hopes, still do.

In my view, Jane Werner Watson’s My Little Golden Book About God is the gold standard of these religious tales. Her book teaches young children “God is great,” and how He has played a role in all things great and small. From a parent’s love to the birds in the sky, God is portrayed as a positive influence in our society. Combined with powerful drawings of innocent children learning about the world around them, it remains one of Little Golden Books’ most important stories.

The two remaining tales, Barbara Shook Hazen’s beautiful rendition of Noah’s Ark, and Patti Henderson’s endearing story about a kangaroo who wants to become a mother, A Blessing from Above, are worthy additions to this collection. Your children will love reading the stories – and learn important life lessons in the process.

The family-oriented tales are a mix of love, values, and fun that Moms, Dads and their kids can enjoy together. One story that stands out is Margaret Wise Brown’s The Friendly Book.  Brown, the legendary author of Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny, always created delightful and whimsical work for Little Golden Books. In this book, she took everyday items and transformed them into enjoyable topics, including “I Like Cars,” “I Like Fish,” and “I Like People.” The brightly coloured cartoonish illustrations by Garth Williams act as the perfect compliment to Brown’s fun rhymes and friendly themes.

The remaining family-oriented tales are great reads, too. Edie Evans’ I Love You, Mommy! and I Love You, Daddy! are self-explanatory in nature, but your little ones will enjoy seeing the fun things they can do with their moms and dads. And Maria Fleming’s Where Do Kisses Come From? is a heartwarming story in which we find out, “…no matter what kind of kiss it is, all kisses come from love.”

Finally, the two inspirational tales – both written by Watson – will help your child think, learn and grow. The Lion’s Paw is loosely based on Aesop’s fable of a lion with a thorn stuck in his front paw. The large animals are too busy to help, but a small mouse shows the difference compassion can make. The second story, Wonders of Nature, will amaze children with all the wonderful things there are (like a kangaroo rat), we can do (blowing a dandelion), and happen around us (birds laying eggs). The last page provides the book’s most poignant message: “Isn’t it a wonder that a little boy that couldn’t walk or talk or feed itself…should grow up to be you?”

Little Golden Books have provided generations of children with great stories, fantastic art, positive messages about family and religion, and many wonderful memories. They deserve a prominent place on your child’s library shelf, where little hands can reach for them again and again.

Michael Taube is an Ottawa Citizen columnist, and a former speechwriter for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.