Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Curious George's Most Dramatic Adventure

Escape from Paris by Allan Drummond shows the Reys fleeing the city in 1940.

Courtesy Houghton Mifflin Company
Did you know that Curious George was originally known as "Fifi" and that he had a narrow escape from the Nazis with his creators -- on their bicycles??

May 16th marked the day Margret Rey was born to Jewish parents in Hamburg, Germany in 1906.  She is best known for co-creating the beloved Curious George books, illustrated by her husband Hans ("H.A.") Rey.  In 1935, her job as a reporter and advertising copywriter took her to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. While there, she came in contact with Hans, also originally from Hamburg - whom she had met years before.

They married and moved to Paris, where their first children's book, Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys, was published in 1939.  In that story, one of the monkeys — "Jimmy, the brave monkey" — is standing next to his brother, Fifi.  It is Fifi who would later become known as "Curious George".

Margret and her husband were living in Paris when the Nazis invaded, and the couple fled the city on bicycles just hours before the German Army arrived. In their luggage was the manuscript of the first Curious George book. Eventually the Reys reached the United States, along with the unpublished story featuring their mischievous little monkey protagonist.

I've included a link to the fascinating interactive timeline: "Margaret and H.A. Ray's Life in Paris and Narrow Escape", here.

There is also a biography about the Reys, in picture book format, The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H. A. Rey, by Louise Borden and illustrated by Allan Drummond.  (You can click on Amazon's "Look Inside" feature to see inside the book.)

The Reys became naturalized citizens in 1946.  H.A. Rey died on August 26, 1977. The couple had been married for 42 years, but never had any children of their own. Margret continued with her career in writing after her husband's death. When she turned 90 in 1996, Margret gave $1 million to the Boston Public Library and its branches to improve their Children's Rooms. She also gave $1 million to Beth Israel Hospital for its Center for Alternative Medicine for Research, which studies nontraditional therapies. She died on December 21, 1996 in her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

source: Greenville Public Library page


  1. Nice post Wendy. Puts a perspective on life. We complain so much about petty things. These people had to flee a brutal invading army, on bikes no less...

    To go from that to authoring the wonderful Curious George books shows incredible resilience. We could all learn from people like them.

    Thank you.


  2. Someone gave us that book...and it is one of the best ones, in my opinion, because it tells the REAL life of the authors of Curious George. I find it fascinating that they both escaped by bicycle, a miracle at that, too, because they were a bunch of pieces! ♥ I love the illustrations.
    It's definitely one that I recommend to others, we've lent our book out to several friends already.