Everyone’s favorite mischievous monkey and his devoted friend–George and the Man With the Yellow Hat–are the beloved characters in many picture books, which have sold more than 75 million copies and have been translated into a dozen languages. George will soon celebrate the 75th anniversary of his first publication.
George is famous, but most readers, who are now adults, may not know the story of George’s creators, Hans Reyersback and his wife Margarete Waldstein, also known as H.A. and Margret Rey.
Hans and Margarete met in Rio de Janerio. Hans had moved there after serving in World War I. Margarete, a photographer, moved to Rio a dozen years later. They married in 1935 and honeymooned in Paris staying there until they were forced to leave.
As German Jews, who had lived in France for only four years, they faced immediate deportation. Hilter had sent three million troops into France causing hundreds of thousands of Parisians to flee. Finally on June 12th, 1940, two days before Hitler’s army captured the city, Hans and his wife rode on a bicycle, the only means of transportation available, out of Paris with a manuscript and art work for their famous book.
After traveling more than fifty miles on their bike, they arrived in Orleans where they squeezed onto one of the last trains out of the area. Eleven days and 1,000 miles later, they arrived in Lisbon. There they waited for a boat to take then to Brazil. Months later they arrived in New York City.Their perilous journey is told in Louise Borden’s book “The Journey That Saved Curious George.” The book is the basis for a soon-to-be released documentary by filmmaker Ema Ryan Yamazaki.
There are many similarities between the Rey’s flight to freedom and their mischief-prone monkey. George, like his creators, rides a bicycle, dreams of flying, escape, and experiences many close calls. How lucky for all readers that George always manages to survive, as did H.A. and Margret Rey.