Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Journey That Saved Curious George

The Journey That Saved Curious George : The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey

Written by: Louise Borden
Illustrated by: Allan Drummond
Recommended Ages: 9-12 (or anyone older who is a big fan of Curious George)

The Journey that Saved Curious George is a well-researched biography about the creators of Curious George--Margret and H.A. Rey. The book is divided into two distinct sections. The first part details their childhoods and early lives together, while the second part tells of their dramatic flight on bicycles from Paris, as the Nazis marched towards the city. It's a compelling story that is beautifully enhanced by H.A.'s drawings, photographs and other primary source documents, as well as Allan Drummond's original watercolors. All of this makes The Journey that Saved Curious George a must-have for fans of the little monkey.

The first part of the book tells about the childhoods of Hans Augosto Reyersbach and Margarete Waldstein in Germany (she changed the spelling of her first name later on). Both came from Jewish families, and both eventually ended up in Brazil. Here they were introduced to the jungle and the wildlife within, which obviously influenced their later stories. After they married, they decided to honeymoon in Paris, where they ended up staying for five years. It was during their time in Paris that they began writing and illustrating books for children. And it was here that they first created a little monkey named Fifi, who was very curious and had a penchant for getting into trouble.

While they were enjoying the artistic and literary life of Paris, the war in Germany began to pick up momentum. Refugees from the north poured into Paris, and the tempo of the city began to change. As German-born Jews, the Reys soon realized they were not safe and had to leave. It was the summer of 1940, and Paris was declared an open city, as the French government decided not to fight the invading army. Margret and H.A. made their preparations to leave:

"The Reys had to travel light:
only a few clothes and their winter coats,
some bread and cheese,
a little meat, water,
an umbrella
Han's pipe,
and the precious manuscripts,
including The Adventures of Fifi."

The account of the Rey's flight from the Nazis by bicycle and train through France, Spain and Portugal is quite thrilling. They eventually boarded a boat for the thirteen-day passage to South America, and ultimately ended up in New York City. One year later, Curious George was published.

Children with an interest in World War II will find the Rey's story fascinating. It personalizes a difficult piece of World War II history in a way that children will understand. They'll be rooting for the creators of Curious George, as they flee the Nazis and head towards their new life in America. The Journey That Saved Curious George would be a great gift for an older child (or adult) who loved the monkey as a child and is curious about how he came to be.

No comments: