Big Little Books


The Depot’s Collection

In 1932 Sam Lowe conceived of a special book that would be bulky but small so that it could be easily handled and read by young consumers and The Big Little Book® was born. Sold for ten cents apiece, retail buyers were intrigued with the concept and impressed with the titles that soon included film stars, radio program and comic strip characters and Walt Disney material.

The Adventures of Dick Tracy” has the distinction of being the first Big Little Book, published by Whitman Publishing in December of 1932, followed soon after by “Dick Tracy and Junior.”  Thirteen Dick Tracy Big Little Books were published through 1938, most focused on a particular comic strip story during Chester Gould’s first decade, but also included were Big Little Books covering three of the Dick Tracy Serials.

BigLittleBookInteriorThe reprinted Tracy stories were an interesting way to collect many months of comic into book form.  In most cases these Big Little Books included the written story on the left side of the page and a single enlarged and reprinted panel with a caption relating the scene on the right.  Perfect for young adventuresome readers.

In the middle of 1938, Whitman’s Big Little Books® transitioned into Better Little Books® and continued to produce Dick Tracy literature, focused again on reprints of the Dick Tracy comics and the Cliffhanger Serials.  Another thirteen were published, the last was “Dick Tracy and the Tiger Lily Gang” in 1949.

Whitman stopped producing the Better Little Books in 1950 but briefly produced a series of Big Look Book between 1967 and 1969.  This line included the title, “Dick Tracy Encounters Facey”.  For more history on all Big Little Books check out Larry Lowery’s detail filled website.

Big Little Books (1932-1938)

BigLittleBook1932_AdventuresofDickTracyPublished December 1932, “The Adventures of Dick Tracy” is 320 pages in length with 152 pictures and tells a story with prints of the strip comics November 19, 1931 through December 28, 1931 and April 12 through May 24, 1932.  This includes Dick’s battles with Big Boy.  This book is very rare and only a few were produced on its single press run.
BigLittleBook1933DickTracyandJuniorPublished in three printings in 1933, “Dick Tracy and Dick Tracy, Jr.” uses single prints from the strip along with the story to introduce Junior over 320 pages.  This retells the story told in dailies October 13, 1932 through December 31, 1932.  The first appearance of Junior, September 8th, 1932 is not included.  This period instead focuses on Junior’s first adventures with Dan Mucelli.
BigLittleBook1933DickTracyOutWestPublished in the second half of 1933 and covering 300 pages, “Dick Tracy Out West” includes prints from dailies between March 2, 1933 and May 16, 1933. The story includes battles with Steve the Tramp as Junior is shipped off to his real father Hank Steele in Colorado.
BigLittleBook1933DickTracyColoradotoNovaScotiaAlso published in 1933, “Dick Tracy from Colorado to Nova Scotia” was 320 pages in length and prints daily strips May 22, 1933 to August 2, 1933.  Here we see they were able to turnaround a printed book in just a few months.  The story involves Stooge Viller, Steve the Tramp in the tragic events that led to Hanke Steele’s death.  A softcover Cocomalt® Premium Peripheral of this book was also published.
BigLittleBook1934DickTracyandStolenBondsPublished in 1934, “Dick Tracy and the Stolen Bonds” prints strip dailies that occured between October 2, 1933 and December 5, 1933.  In this book we are told the story of Big Boy’s escape from prison after the death of Boss Herod and the plot by Jimmy White and his “25” club steal bond money.
BigLittleBook1934DickTracySolvesPenfieldMysteryThe second Big Little Book published in 1934, “Dick Tracy Solves the Penfield Mystery” reprinted daily strips between January 23, 1934 and May 7, 1934 in which Dick Tracy tries to save author Jean Penfield who has written a tell all book about Big Boy.  This book has two variations, the second possibly issued as a “Premium.”
BigLittleBook1935DickTracyonTrailofLarcenyLuPublished in 1935, “Dick Tracy on the Trail of Larceny Lu” reprinted some of the dailies between August 3, 1934 and October 15, 1934.  In this story Larceny Lu returns to plague Dick Tracy and Junior and we are introduced to Junior’s birth mother, Mary Steele, who becomes entangled in a plot for money.
BigLittleBook1938DickTracyandtheBorisArsonGangThe second Big Little Book published in 1935, “Dick Tracy and the Boris Arson Gang” reprints the popular story of Boris and Zora Arson from dailies between November 13, 1934 and February 6, 1935.  Coming in at 432 pages, this was one of the larger Whitman books.
BigLittleBook1936DickTracyChainsofCrimePublished in 1936, “Dick Tracy in Chains of Crime“, this 432 page book reprints some of Gould’s dailies between May 26, 1935 and August 2, 1935. Here we read about Bookie Joe’s gambling syndicate and Mark Masters who tried to rob him.  In this story we meet Toby Townly, who would later become Pat Patton’s wife.
BigLittleBook1936DickTracyandRacketeerGangAlso published in 1936, “Dick Tracy and the Racketeer Gang” was 432 pages in length and reprinted some of the dailies September 28, 1935 through December 8, 1935.  The Racketeer’s are Cut and Muscle Famon and their “Maw”.  Tracy battles them in a classic hunt on organized crime.
BigLittleBook1937DickTracyHotelMurdersEntering 1937, “Dick Tracy and the Hotel Murders” included daily strips between March 8, 1936 and May 10, 1936.  This was the Gothorn Murders case which introduced us to Lips Manliss, one of the few criminals who turned good.  This was the only comic strip based book to be printed in 1937.
BigLittleBook1937DickTracyandSpiderGangPublished in 1937, “Detective Dick Tracy and the Spider Gang” was the first non-comic strip Dick Tracy Big Little Book to be published.  It was released with the 1937 Dick Tracy Serial, The Spider Strikes and is filled with motion picture stills and the story in book form.  Two versions of this book were produced due to a publishing stoppage.
BigLittleBook1938DickTracyandManWithNoFacePublished in 1938, “Dick Tracy and the Man with No Face” was the last book printed under the Big Little Book label and was produced during the transition to Better Little Books, thus it has no circular BLB logo.  In this book are dailies starting in late 1937 telling the story of Dick Tracy’s encounter with the Blank.


Better Little Books (1939-1950)

BetterLittleBook1939DickTracyonHighSeasPublished in 1939, “Dick Tracy on the High Seas” was the first Tracy book published under the Better Little Books brand.  In this 432 page book are some reprints of Chester Gould’s dailies between January 9, 1938 and March 26, 1938 and features the story of Stud Bronzen and the Slave Trade off the coast of the city.
BetterLittleBook1939DickTracyReturnsPublished in 1939, “Dick Tracy Returns” celebrated the release of the second Dick Tracy Serial of the same name starring Ralph Byrd.  This Better Little Book is filled with motion picture stills and the story in written form.
BetterLittleBook1939DickTracySuperDetectiveAlso published in 1939, “Dick Tracy, The Super-Detective” was a 432 page book containing strip daily reprints for the dates November 8, 1938 to March 9, 1939 which includes the Poison Gas Plot involving the villain Karpse and Dick Tracy’s visit to “Pop” Gaines health resort where he helps resolve a botched gem heist.
BetterLittleBook1940DickTracyandPhantomShipIn 1940, Better Little Books published the first Dick Tracy story based on a Ned Wever era radio script, “Dick Tracy and the Phantom Ship.”  In this story Tracy, Pat Patton and Junior take a nautical trip down to the Antarctic to help whalers who are plagued by a ghost ship stealing their whales.  You can read a Depot review of this novel here.
BetterLittleBook1941DickTracyvsCrooksinDisguisePublished in 1941, “Dick Tracy vs. Crooks in Disguises” was 432 page Better Little Book covering comic strip dailies between March 12, 1939 and July 4, 1939.  These includes Gas Station hold ups involving Scardol early in the book and the Whip Chute case after that.
BetterLittleBook1941DickTracyAndGMenCreated in 1941, “Dick Tracy and his G-Men” was the Better Little Book produced for the third Dick Tracy serial, Dick Tracy’s G-Men in 1939.  Like the previous serial book releases, this copy included motion picture stills and the movie’s written story.
BetterLittleBook1943DickTracySpecialFBIPublished in 1943, “Dick Tracy, Special F.B.I. Operative” was the first Tracy Better Big Book in two years, with the delay possibility attributed to the United States entering World War II.  The book features reprints of the comic strip between the years the end of 1942 and start of 1943 during which the German spy Pruneface faced off with Dick Tracy.
BetterLittleBook1944DickTracyonVoodooIslandDick Tracy on Voodoo Island” is an original Dick Tracy story written specifically for the Better Little Book format and published in 1944.  In this story, Dick is asked to investigate a death at a rubber plantation on a Caribbean island.  You can read our review of this book here.
BetterLittleBook1945DickTracyWreathKidnappingPublished in 1945, “Dick Tracy and the Wreath Kidnapping Case” is a 352 page book with comic strip reprints for the dates February 4, 1943 through April 14, 1943.  This is the story of the kidnapping and rescue of little Johnny Wreath, stolen from daycare by his jealous father Nifty.
BetterLittleBook1946DickTracyandYogeeYammaPublished in 1946, “Dick Tracy and Yogee Yamma” was 352 pages in length and reprinted some of Chester Gould’s daily strip pictures from July 14, 1940 through September 18, 1940.  In the story, Yogee uses a powerful gas to hypnotize wealthy victims, the gas produced by a chained Professor Roloc Bard.
BetterLittleBook1947DickTracyandMadKillerDick Tracy and the Mad Killer” was published in 1947 and recounts Selbert Depool murders that took place in the comic strip from February 26, 1941 to May 16, 1941.  The Depool case was one of the darker, deadlier cases for Dick Tracy.
BetterLittleBook1948DickvsBicycleGangPublished in 1948, “Dick Tracy and the Bicycle Gang” included daily newspaper strip reprints October 24, 1940 through December 19, 1940.  This story featured Junior heavily with the Deafy Sweetfellow causing the youngster all kinds of trouble.  The cover picture was adapted from page 253 of the Boris Arson Gang book.
BetterLittleBook1949DickTracyTigerLilyThe final Dick Tracy Better Little Book, “Dick Tracy and the Tiger Lilly Gang” was published in 1949, a year before Better Little Books ceased their publication.  This book contains daily comic strip reprints for dates June 14, 1942 through September 22, 1942.  We are recounted with the story of Tiger Lily, a criminal with a rather strange reason for causing “accidents.”

Big Little Books (1967-1969)

BigLittleBook1967DickTracyEncountersFaceyIn 1967 Whitman Publishing released a short run of Big Little Books (the 2000 Series) from which we were given one last Dick Tracy BLB, “Dick Tracy Encounters Facey“.  This was a 256 page book that went through three different printings.  Copies of this book are the most common Dick Tracy Little Big Book to be found by Tracy hunters.


23 Responses to Big Little Books

  1. Pingback: Jim Doherty Articles Dick Tracy Depot

  2. I have five of these little books. Do you know of anyone who would like to buy any of the books ? If you have any names please e-mail me

    Sincerly Yours,

    Don Anthony

    • Matt says:

      I am interested in the Dick Tracy Big Little books, do you know where I can purchase any?

      • admin says:

        Matt, at the risk of cutting out other antique book sites I would try eBay. I’ve picked up most of the Depot collection from there.

  3. cuban diner says:

    Hi! I’ve been reading your site for a long time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Lubbock
    Tx! Just wanted to mention keep up the great job!

  4. Please tell me were I can find any info About the DT reprints
    From 1982/1983 , small comic books
    On the inside of the magazines
    Very limited editing
    Reprint 1982
    Tony raiola -po box 14361
    Long beach-ca 90803 USA
    I’ ve got 6x of these magazines
    Please give me Some help

    Thanks in advance

    Martin burger

    • admin says:

      Hi Martin,

      I was not familiar with the 1982/83 Tony Raiola comic reprints but I did some research. Tony is a publisher specializing in reprinting classic and vintage comic strips and from what I can tell he did a run of comics in those two years, 9 of which were Dick Tracy. So you might have most of the set.

      I got that number from here,, so it’s possible there are more not listed. I’d be interested if your 6 comics are all in this list.

      There are some covers on this website if you want to compare to your covers…

      Judging by Amazon, Ebay and comic resale websites, they might be worth between $10 and $30 (U.S.) each, depending on quality and if you could find a buyer.

      If you are not familiar with what “Reprints” are, they are republishing the newspaper comic strip as a collection. Most of the time the stories are from the 1930’s and 40’s. I could identify the time period of the comics easy enough if that’s something you want to know.

      Tony has a website but no further information on the run you have.

      Hope this helps,
      Jeremy @ the Depot

  5. Sherri Storey says:

    I have a Dick Tracy book that I got from my grandmother . It has a plane Brown cover with orange letters . Is it worth anything .

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  7. Becki H Powell says:

    What would be the value of “Dick Tracy and the Man with No Face”. Published 1938 by Whitman Publishing Co., Racine, Wisconsin. It’s in good condition.

    • admin says:

      I would estimate it to be between $20 for a “good” condition and $40 for “very good”. I’ve seen several of them sold on ebay prices in that range, while the actual unsold listings are priced at varying amounts.

      Hope that helps,

  8. Joe says:

    Back in the 80’s I purchased what I believe was called a big little book, though it was rather large in size. It was the complete story of DT vs. Flattop, the latter of whom was hired to kill Tracy. I don’t know what happened to the book, likely my parents tossed it when I moved out years ago. Been looking for it online but no luck so far. Any thoughts?


    • admin says:

      Hi Joe, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a Big Little Book as there wasn’t one featuring Flattop. There was a larger coloring book called a “Big Big Book”, but I don’t think there was ever a Flattop version of that either.

      I appreciate the research challenge. I could use some more clues. Was it color? Did it have written stories? with or without artwork, or was it more like a comic book? Maybe it was the actual panels of the Flattop story?

      There was the Dick Tracy Monthly, issue #25 featured Flattop. Refer to this site to see the cover, which might be familiar.

      Then there are strip reprints, Spec Production has a Dick Tracy Magazine, Issue #31 did the flattop story…

      – Jeremy

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  11. Pingback: Dick Tracy Encounters Facey (1967) - Dick Tracy Depot

  12. Tammy day says:

    I have one want to know how much it is worthit says copyright in 1967

    • admin says:

      I think what you have is Dick Tracy Encounters Facey, that was published in 1967. Low quality copies are only with $2-$3 while a good condition goes for about $10. I’m basing this on ebay prices.

  13. Sara Rosendorff says:

    My mom, who was born in 1928, remembers a little big book about Junior being kidnapped while in the hospital. Do you know the title I am looking for.? Thanks

  14. Pingback: Dick Tracy on Voodoo Island



  16. Gil Hoffman says:

    To settle my Fathers estate, I have in my possession approximately 290 Whitman golden age big little books.
    I believe we have all of the Dick Tracey books shown above,
    as well as Popeye, Mickey Mouse, Buck Rogers, Little Orphan Annie, Lone Ranger…. the list goes on!
    My father was a serious collector and most of the books are
    very fine to near mint condition. Pages are only slightly yellowed. I have taken a digital photo of each book and could send a USB flash drive with images to any interested party. I may be reached by phone at 716-646-4595.
    I live in the Buffalo, NY area. Thanks, Gil Hoffman

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