Friday, September 16, 2016

He Gave Us Curious George

Today, September 16th, is the birth date of the father of the famed children’s book series Curious George. Hans Augusto Reyersbach, better known as H.A. Rey, was born on this day in 1898 in Hamburg, Germany. Still a teenager at the outbreak of World War I, Rey served in the German army during the war and later painted circus posters while attending university.

Several years after moving to Rio de Janerio, Brazil (in the mid-1920s), while selling bathtubs in the Amazon,  H.A. Rey met fellow Hamburg native Margarete (Margret) Waldstein. He had actually met her once before, at her older sister’s birthday party, but in Brazil they fell in love. After their 1935 wedding, the Reys decided to return to Europe and moved to Paris, where they began writing and illustrating children’s books.

Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys, the Reys’ first published title, came out in 1939. The youngest monkey, Fifi, was so popular that the Reys began writing just about him. On the threshold of true success, their lives were suddenly overshadowed by world events. Hours before the Nazis entered Paris in 1940, the Reys, aware of the danger they faced as Jews, fled the city on self-assembled bikes.

After they arrived in the United States, the already-written Fifi manuscript was published with a new name for the title character, Curious George. The Reys only wrote eight Curious George books, the rest were written by other artists/illustrators.

In addition to his love of animals and art, Rey was fascinated by astronomy. In the 1950s, he produced an illustration of the constellations that made them easier to recognize and identify. The Stars: A New Way to See Them was re-released as recently as 2008.

H.A. Rey passed away on August 26, 1977.

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