Top 100 Picture Books #41: Curious George by H.A. Rey
#41 Curious George by H.A. Rey (1941)
Originally published in 1941, It’s a testament to the enduring appeal of Curious George that this title, and its multitude of subsequent books are still widely circulated, and familiar to young readers. I can see why. Kids can relate to George’s innocently mischievous behavior and his relationship with The Man With the Yellow Hat, who acts as parental figure. In a format extended beyond the typical 32 page picture book standard, the simple text and humorous illustrations continue to draw readers in. – Travis Jonker
The plot from B&N reads, “The first adventure in this highly popular series tells how the little monkey Curious George, caught in the jungle and brought back to the city by a man in a yellow hat, can’t help being interested in all the new things around him. Though well meaning, George’s curiosity always gets him into trouble.”
Few picture books inspire people to write heroic stories about their own creators but that’s exactly what happened in 2005 when the title The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey by Louise Borden was published. As the story goes, H.A. (or Hans) and Margret cobbled together two bicycles and took off for Marseilles when the Germans invaded Paris. They were stopped along the way by Nazi soldiers, but when Hans showed them the pictures he had done of the little monkey who would become George the Germans were charmed and let the two go.
According to 100 Best Books for Children, George’s original name was Fifi. Strangely (har har), American editors didn’t dig the moniker. Interestingly enough, “Margret Rey served as writer and Hans as illustrator on all the books, although she did not always get title-page recognition.” Not much in the way of cover recognition either, I see.
Some objections to the book don’t care for how The Man in the Yellow Hat kidnaps George from his native land without so much as a howdy-doo. This fed nicely into Michael Rex’s Furious George Goes Bananas, which is probably the top George parody out there right now. Of course, this little monkey has survived everything from full-screen adaptations to his own TV show to the recent introduction of a Curious George application for iPhones. He’s cutting edge, this guy. I suspect he’ll be around for a while.
You may read the book here.
And no tribute to George is ever truly complete without this reading by “Werner Herzog” (so to speak).
Filed under: Best Books, Top 100 Picture Books Poll
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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