Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Mrs. from Hershey, PA. Mrs. Wonders, “Why does Curious George like to get in trouble? ” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Mrs.!
Can you think of a cute little animal that constantly gets himself into trouble due to his inquisitive nature? Here's another hint: he loves bananas. There's one name that probably comes to mind: George. Curious George, to be more precise!
While millions of people know the cute little monkey from the Curious George books, movies, and television shows, not many people know the background of his creators. Let's explore how they brought one of the world's most famous monkeys to life…and had to escape from the Nazis to do it!
If you've ever read one of the Curious George books, you know the authors are listed as H. A. Rey and Margret Rey. Those are the pen names of Hans Reyersbach and his wife, Margarete Waldstein, both German Jews born in Hamburg.
Although they were both born in the same town in Germany, Hans and Margarete met and got married in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Hans was an artist who sketched and painted while also selling bathtubs and plumbing fixtures. Margarete was an ambitious photographer.
Hans and Margarete married in 1935 and founded an advertising agency. Margarete changed her name to "Margret," and Hans changed their last name to "Rey," which he thought would be easier for Brazilians to pronounce.
The couple became Brazilian citizens and enjoyed life in Rio de Janeiro, where they kept two marmoset monkeys as pets. They decided to take the monkeys with them when they sailed to Paris for an extended honeymoon. Unfortunately, the monkeys died before arriving in Europe.
In Paris, the Reys began to write and illustrate children's books inspired by their pet monkeys from Brazil. Hans drew the illustrations and Margret came up with the stories. In 1939, they began a story about a young monkey who was always getting into trouble. They called it "The Adventures of Fifi."
Unfortunately, Hitler's Nazi troops invaded France in May 1940. Hundreds of thousands of Parisians began fleeing the city. The Reys were hesitant to leave, and they almost waited too long. By the time they decided to flee Paris, there wasn't a single car or bike available in the city.
With just a few possessions, including the manuscripts and drawings that would become the first Curious George book, the Reys fled from Paris on the morning of June 12, just two days before the Nazis captured the city.
With German planes flying overhead, they joined millions of other refugees on the road south to safety. They stayed in farmhouses and stables as they rode their bikes and caught trains when they could. They eventually made their way to Spain, then Portugal, and finally back to Brazil.
In October 1940, the Reys sailed to New York City. They found a publisher for their book who suggested they rename their main character. Fifi became George, and Curious George was published in 1941.
Curious George's antics in many ways reflect his creators' struggles to escape the Nazis. He rides a bike. He dreams of flying. He finds himself caught up in circumstances beyond his control.
His story became one of the most popular children's books of the 20th century. George's adventures spawned other books, movies, television shows, plays, games, stuffed animals, toys, and more. To date, more than 75 million copies of Curious George books have been sold in over a dozen languages worldwide.