From Kidstamps to Wonder-Shirts: All For the Love of Books

Larry spent his life around books. From haunting libraries as a child and young adult to being an English major in college to getting an MLS and being a school librarian and public library administrator.

In the late 1970s, when his kids were very young, he tried to remember the toys he had played with “way back when” and the only thing that came to mind was a set of circus-themed rubber stamps that he played with constantly.

At the time, Larry was employed by a large public library system to review children’s and young adult books. He came up with the idea of having prominent children’s illustrators create rubber stamps that librarians, teachers, and parents could use to promote reading with kids.

He called the company Kidstamps and issued the first catalog in 1981. From that germ of an idea he and his team built a company that eventually employed more than thirty people and produced rubber stamps, t-shirts, paper bookplates, and mugs, but all using the same idea: employing (at that point) more than eighty of the world’s best illustrators for children, including such big names as Maurice Sendak,  to create products that instilled a love of reading in kids.

In 2002 he gave Kidstamps to his employees, and he retained the t-shirts and apparel product lines. He re-branded as Wonder-Shirts. It was a much smaller company and one that he could handle by himself with one other employee. It stayed that way until he sold it to Wonder-Shirt’s current owners in 2012.

Can you relate to any aspects of Larry’s story? Let us know in the comments. Now you know a little bit more of our story. We’d love to hear more of your story too.

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3 comments

  1. I am a librarian, and for some years I bought Kidstamps as I could afford them. I loved them, and still do. I could never quite convince myself to buy the Eric Blegvad cat alphabet, and I’ve been scolding myself about that ever since. I was glad to find this article so I at least know something about the company, though I am wondering still what happened after it was given to the employees.

    Please thank Mr. Rakow for all the enjoyment I’ve gotten over the years from my Kidstamps.

    1. Leslie, Thank you so much for your post! I will pass your kind wishes on to Larry, as we chat now and again. My wife and I bought Wonder-Shirts four years ago and have carried on his traditions. As for Kidstamps, the former employee who took over, succumbed to health issues and Kidstamps went out of business. Sales were in decline as the internet made it easy to copy characters from the internet and print at will. Like you, I think stamps are a lot of fun but there’s not much of a market for them. Best Wishes, -Matthew.

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