New Year’s Eve with the Curious: Jackson and George


On New Year's Eve Jackson and I went to the Perry (Iowa) Public Library. Curious George got our attention. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you'll see that H.A. Rey's name is on the front cover of the book. Margret Rey's name is not.

Do the names Margret and H.A. Rey ring a bell? How about the Curious George books that for decades have endeared children of all ages? While I’ve “known” Curious George for what seems like forever, I didn’t realize that the creators (the Reys) were German Jews who fled Paris in June of 1940 just before German troops marched into that city. A manuscript and sketches of what later became known as the monkey Curious George literally saved the Reys as they escaped before arriving in the United States in 1940.

In December my brother-in-law Jeff sent this link that includes the harrowing story of how Margret and H.A. Rey escaped the Nazis. The article also includes a link for the Margret and H.A. Rey Center in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. (Sounds like a great New England vacation stop!)

Houghton Mifflin site provides photos of and additional information about Margret and H.A. Rey.

As evidenced in the above photo, the front cover of Curious George includes “H.A. Rey” but not Margret’s name. This made me curious as to why Margret’s name isn’t on the cover. After all, wasn’t she an author, too? At the Houghton Mifflin site (linked to in the previous paragraph) is an FAQ section. One of the FAQ answers gives a brief explanation of how the Reys worked together on their books.

Curious George was first copyrighted in 1941, the year after Margret and H.A. Rey arrived in the United States. This scan is taken from a copy from the 74th printing. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Reading about the Reys’ escape from the Nazis provided the impetus for Jackson, my almost-five-year-old grandson, and me to go to the Perry library to check out Curious George. Jackson was fascinated — curious — as was I. When I looked at the illustrations I remembered that if the Reys did not have those illustrations with them as they escaped, they may have never made it to the United States in 1940. And therefore, there may have never been Curious George books as we know them today.

(Click here to go to Louise Gunderson Shimon’s blog’s home page.)


4 Responses to “New Year’s Eve with the Curious: Jackson and George”

  1. Marti Carlson Says:

    Very interesting information. Thanks for sharing. And I love the photo of you and Jackson at the library.

  2. Clara Hoover Says:

    Fun! Yes, I love the photo. Several years ago I bought some children’s lit themed birthday cards. I have one Curious George card left and will save it for Jackson’s birthday.

  3. Kathy Shannon Says:

    Love this post and photo! The NW library has the following book:
    The journey that saved Curious George : the true wartime escape of Margret and H.A. Rey by Louise Borden ; illustrated by Allan Drummond.
    I don’t know when it was purchased, (possibly by you), but is fact and photo filled. It’s often used by teachers along with WWII studies.

    Curious was also a favorite of one of my sons!!

  4. Louise Gunderson Shimon Says:

    Marti, Clara and Kathy: Ooooh, so fun to read your comments.

    Clara: Jackson will love the card. I’m glad I will get to be with him when he opens it.

    Kathy: Thank you for reminding me of the non-fiction book about the Reys. I can hardly wait to get it as a companion book for Jackson and me to read it and the Curious George books together…you know, the mix of fiction and non-fiction. I’m glad you mentioned about teachers using it for WW II studies. I always have so much to learn from you. If you hadn’t told me how much you loved/love Harry the Dirty Dog, I don’t know if it would have ever become a favorite book of Jackson’s, and therefore mine. Now that I’m gone from school and you are still there, if you think of any other newer titles/authors or oldie-goldies that you think would be good for Jackson and me, I’m all ears. You are in the trenches still and I know have great advice.

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