Everyone remembers Curious George, the inquisitive little monkey. If you did not read the books as a child, I’m sure you have read them to your children or grandchildren. Over the years, millions have followed along as Curious George learned the alphabet, went to the hospital, and hung from a kite in the sky, always seeming to get into one scrape or another.
His most dramatic adventure is the harrowing story behind his creators the year before his 1941 debut. Hans and Margret Rey embarked on a journey that not only saved their lives but, in a sense, George’s as well.
Margret and H. A. Rey were living in Paris at the start of World War II, and being German Jews, were concerned for their safety. Both, born in Hamburg, had become citizens of Brazil while living there. They married on August 16, 1935 and their two week honeymoon in Paris turned into a four year stay in France where they worked together creating children’s books.
As the German army pushed forward to take control of Paris, refugees departed for southern destinations. On June 12, 1940 the Reys left Paris with little more than the clothes on their backs, but Hans carried precious cargo in the basket strapped to his makeshift bike – five manuscripts for their children’s book featuring a monkey named Fifi (later re-named George). Hours after they left, the city fell to enemy forces.
Hans and Margret pedaled until they reached the French-Spanish border, the first destination of a month long journey which took them to five countries. Their final destination was New York City, eventually settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where they began a new life as children’s book authors.
“The Journey That Saved Curious George”, written by Louise W. Borden, follows the Rey’s amazing story in dramatic detail. A perfect book for Curious George fans of all ages.
Photo by youngdoo via flickr