September 13, 2005
NYTimes: How Curious George Escaped the Nazis
By DINITIA SMITH
Curious George is every 2-year-old sticking his finger into the light socket, pouring milk onto the floor to watch it pool, creating chaos everywhere. One reason the mischievous monkey is such a popular children's book character is that he makes 4- to 6-year-olds feel superior: fond memories, but we've given all that up now.
In the years since the first book was published in the United States in 1941, "George" has become an industry. The books have sold more than 27 million copies. There have been several "Curious George" films, including an animated one featuring the voice of Will Ferrell that is scheduled for release this February, and theater productions, not to mention the ubiquitous toy figure. Next year, PBS will begin a Curious George series for pre-schoolers.
But in truth, "Curious George" almost didn't make it onto the page. A new book, The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H. A. Rey (Houghton Mifflin), tells of how George's creators, both German-born Jews, fled from Paris by bicycle in June 1940, carrying the manuscript of what would become "Curious George" as Nazis prepared to invade.
The book's author, Louise Borden, said in a telephone interview from Terrace Park, Ohio, that she first spotted a mention of the Reys' escape in Publishers Weekly. "But no one knew where they had gone from Paris, the roads they took, the dates of where they were, the details," she said.
Her account, intended for older children, is illustrated in whimsical European style by Allan Drummond, and includes photographs of the Reys and wartime Europe, as well as H. A. Rey's pocket diaries and transit documents.
For her research, Ms. Borden combed the Rey archives of the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi, interviewed people who knew them and traced their journey through letters and postmarks.
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September 13, 2005