Writer and illustrator H.A. (Hans) Rey grew up near the famous Hagenbeck Zoo in Hamburg, Germany, a great location for someone with a love of animals and drawing. He married writer Margret Waldstein in 1935 when he was living in Brazil selling bathtubs, which sounds like a pretty good story in itself.
The Reys moved to Paris, where H.A.'s 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.
The manuscript forCurious Georgewas one of five that the Reys brought with them when they fled Paris in 1940 — just hours ahead of Hitler's invading army — on bicycles they built from spare parts. They made it safely out of France to the United States (via ships, not on the bikes) and settled in Greenwich Village.
Curious Georgewas published in the United States in 1941. (Published that same year in England, George's name was changed to Zozo so as not to disrespectfully associate King George VI with a monkey!) Over the following 25 years, Margret and H.A. wrote six more Curious George stories.
The Curious George books were a true collaboration. Hans was generally in charge of ideas and illustrations, while Margret handled plot and writing. Many aspects of the Reys' own interests and adventures are reflected in the images and plots of theCurious Georgestories. For example: Hans smoked a pipe, the couple lived among palm trees in Brazil, and they took some very important trips by both bicycle and ocean liner. In addition, Hans and Margret were very fond of animals, and their first stop whenever they visited a new city was the zoo.
Since its initial publication,Curious Georgehas enjoyed an enduring popularity. The mischievous little monkey has been instantly familiar for generations. Over 30 million copies ofCurious George books. have been sold worldwide, with versions published in 16 languages, including Yiddish, Afrikaans, and Braille. And in 2005, George starred inhis first full-length feature film!
In 1989, Margret established The Curious George Foundation to fund programs for children that share Curious George's irresistible qualities: curiosity in learning, exploring, ingenuity, opportunity, and determination.
Still curious about George? You can learn more about the Reys and their famous little monkey atHoughton Mifflin's Curious Georgesite.Photo of Reys: H. A. and Margret Rey, de Grummond Children's Literature Collection, The University of Southern Mississippi
Curious George is a production of Imagine, WGBH and Universal. Curious George and related characters, created by Margret and H.A. Rey, are copyrighted and trademarked by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and used under license. Licensed by Universal Studios Licensing LLC. Television Series: ©2015 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved. The PBS KIDS logo is a registered mark of PBS and is used with permission. Proud sponsor of Curious George® on PBS KIDS® is ABCmouse.com.
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