Curious George may have been known as the lovable, adventurous and mischievous monkey, but the inspiration behind the character’s travel exploits goes much deeper. A new exhibit at New York’s The Jewish Museum allows visitors to explore the minds behind Curious George’s character.
Much like Curious George, creators and married couple Hans and Margaret Rey were also on the run. The Reys were German Jews who lived in Paris in the beginning of the Nazi invasion period. The couple feared for their safety and decided to flee Paris on their bicycles just two days before the Nazis arrived in France.
They carried their favorite drawings during their four-month voyage from Paris to Spain, Portugal and Brazil before settling in New York. One of the illustrations they took with them was about a monkey named Fifi. Inspired by their own experiences, Fifi was fond of travelling and always found a way to escape danger.
During their journey they were questioned twice by authorities due to their German accents but were exempted when officials learned they were creating children’s books. Upon their arrival in the US, they tried to sell the story of Fifi the monkey to American publishers, but were told Fifi was not a fit name for a male animal. The name was eventually changed to George and the book went on to sell millions of copies. Curious George books have also been translated to other languages, including Yiddish and Hebrew.
Now, visitors can see almost 80 original drawings from over 30 Curious George and other books the Reys wrote and illustrated. The museum also includes Hans’ journal and Margaret’s photography. The exhibition will be on display until August 1, 2010. For more information, visit www.thejewishmuseum.org.
Republished with permission from Shalom Life