Monday, September 19, 2011

Curious George in Manhattan (but leaving soon!)

 "This is George."

(Disney clipart)
"He was a good little monkey and always very curious." 

So begins each new adventure of Curious George, the series of books which children have been snuggling up to at bedtime and circling up to at storytime for over sixty years.  My brother and I were two of those children, encouraged by our mother, a kindergarten teacher, whose collection of yellow-covered Curious George books took up an entire section of her overflowing bookshelf.

The family tradition continued last week when 2-year-old granddaughter, Ruby, came for a visit, bringing along Mama and Papa.  She had studied the guidebooks, checked the internet and knew exactly what she wanted to do in "The Big City."  Right at the top of her list was the Children's Museum of Manhattan where George was hanging out in the "Curious George, Let's Get Curious!" exhibit. Thanks to Mama and Papa's love of reading, Ruby knows all about George's exploits at the library, baseball game, hospital and camping.   As she dashed from bigger-than-life George to his friend, The Man in the Yellow Hat, and everything in between, I discovered the quietest area in the room, where few of the pre-school crowd was gathered. . . filled with facts about George's creators, H. A. and Margret Rey.

The splashy yellow and red sign, with squiggly edges and trademark Curious George signature, provided no clues about the seriousness of Hans and Margret's own daring adventure.

Escaping Paris only hours before Nazi troops entered the city, the pair left by bicycle, pedaling for three days, spending one night in a cow stable before reaching a train station.  Speeding across Spain to Portugal, they boarded a boat in Lisbon that took them to Brazil, where they booked passage on another boat headed for. . .

They had no room for luggage, for a carry-on stuffed to over-flowing, no place to put possessions except in a bicycle basket. Perhaps they hurriedly threw in a change of clothes, a prized family photograph, a loaf of bread.  The one item we know of, for sure, that they tucked safely inside Hans' coat, was the manuscript for George (originally named "Fifi").  As a writer, I completely understand this.  It was their creation, built from hours and hours of thought, imagination, collaboration --  selecting just the right words, penning just the right expressions. An artist's work becomes part of who he or she is.  It was not a choice for them to leave it behind.

And for generations of readers, what would childhood be without the curiosity of a little monkey to entertain and make us laugh?  The exhibit moves on after September 25th, but thanks to Margret and Hans, we have George forever.
George and Ruby




  1. Wow. Wish your other grandkids could see the exhibit. They would love it!

  2. Ruby looks precious--and enthralled.

    Don't you love that he's always a good monkey and always very curious? Imagine how horrible it would be if that conjunction were "but"!

  3. I never thought of it that way. What difference one word can make! How important for us all to be curious, but maybe not get into as much trouble as George. :-)


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