Big Little Books go back way before Boomer years, yet they were a part of our culture, too.
In the sparse economic atmosphere of the Depression, in 1932, Whitman Publishing sought to find a use for paper scraps that were too small to use in magazines or standard books. Thus, the birth of the Big Little Book, 3 5/8″ wide and 4 1/2″ high, with 432 pages, making it about 1 1/2 inches thick. Truly, a big little book.
The books had lots of illustrations and big type, easy for a child to read. And a child could complete a Big Little Book in a day’s time, proudly announcing the fact to his parents or schoolteacher.
The Big Little Books I remember were the 2000 series, produced from 1967-68. One I particularly remember owning and reading numerous times was about the Man from UNCLE. It was called The Calcutta Affair, and even though I haven’t seen it in nearly 40 years, I can still recall many of the illustrations and details of the story.
Solo to Kuryakin: “You know, if you could eat an egg’s shell along with the rest of it, it would be a complete meal.”
Kuryakin: “I ALWAYS eat the shell.”
Thus, a kid is introduced to dry humor, courtesy of a Big Little Book.
There is a killer website out there called biglittlebooks.com that is loaded with info about the diminutive volumes. In fact, they have an article on the very book I used to own here! Cool stuff.
So yes, we were known as the TV age, spending more time in front of the idiot box than any prior to us. But thanks to Whitman’s Big Little Books, as well as other series aimed at kids, we were also pretty darned well read.