Q) How popular is the character of Curious George?
A) George is known by countless children and adults all over
the world. His books have sold over 25 million copies and have
been translated into more than 14 languages, including Japanese,
French, Afrikaans, Portuguese, Swedish, German, Chinese, Danish,
Q) How is George celebrating his 60th birthday this year?
A) An exciting and fun-filled fall will cap off a year
of festivities for George and all his friends.
Several new books will be available in September, including
a 60th Anniversary edition of The Complete
Adventures of Curious George.
A special exhibit of artwork and memorabilia from Margret
and Hans Rey will begin traveling the country in
October of 2001.
In October, Houghton Mifflin and Curious George will be
sponsoring Sesame Street in select markets throughout the United
States. This is the first time a major publisher will act as a
sponsor for this popular show.
A consumer contest will kick off, in which a family of
four will win a trip to Universal Studios Theme Park
Q) What makes the 60th anniversary edition of The Complete
Adventures of Curious George different from other editions?
A) This edition includes an introduction by critic Leonard
Marcus, a special biographical essay on Margret and Hans Rey by
Dee Jones, curator of the de Grummond Childrens Literature
Collection, and a retrospective note by former publisher Anita
Q) Margret and Hans Rey were both born in Germany. How did
they wind up in America?
A) After meeting briefly in Germany, Hans and Margret were
reunited while working in Rio de Janeiro. They were married in
1935 and moved to Paris soon after. Unfortunately, the political
climate in Europe was changing, and by the spring of 1940, Hitler
was poised to take over Paris. Hans and Margret fled on homemade
bicycles with little more than the clothes on their backs and
a handful of manuscripts (one of which starred an inquisitive
little monkey named Curious George) hours before German troops
marched on the city. After a brief stay in Brazil, they found
their way to New York City and eventually settled in Cambridge,
Q) Did the Reys like animals?
A) Both Hans and Margret were very fond of animals, and their
first stop whenever they visited a new city was the zoo. They
owned a series of cocker spaniels, which Hans sometimes featured
in his illustrations. And Hans was well known around his summer
home for rescuing injured animals and nursing them back to health.
One of these animalsan orphaned chipmunk named Coffee, whom
Hans had hand-fed with an eyedropper and returned to the wildcame
back each summer to visit his human friends.
Q) How did the Reys work together to create their wonderful
A) Hans liked to say that the couple had our books,
her books, and my books, and the process behind each of
these types was different. For the books that they created together,
which include the original seven Curious George stories and Whiteblack
the Penguin Sees the World, Hans was generally in charge of
the ideas and the illustrations, while Margret handled the plot
and the writing. However, the lines of responsibility were often
blurred on these books, and their collaborative process was more
complex than these simple divisions would suggest. In addition,
Hans produced several astronomy books, which did not involve Margret,
and Margret wrote several books on her own, which Hans illustrated
Q) Where did Hans and Margret get their ideas?
A) Both Hans and Margret believed that ideas could come from
anywhere at any time . . . while soaking in the tub, walking through
the woods, reading a book, or dining with friends. A news clipping
about two mice that were sent into space to study the effects
of weightlessness led to Georges own space flight in Curious
George Gets a Medal. Earlier in the same book, Georges
bubbly cleaning methods were inspired by a story told to the Reys
by a friend. Often, Hans would decide that he would like to see
George do something particular, like visit a museum or fly through
the air, and this would spark Margrets imagination.
Q) Did Margret and Hans limit themselves to childrens
books, or did their creativity find other outlets?
A) Margret and Hans founded the first advertising agency in
Rio de Janeiro, which allowed Hans to produce a
variety of advertising art and Margret to produce ad copy. Throughout
his life, Hans also drew maps and posters, illustrated cookbooks,
and designed holiday cards for businesses and for his own use.
Margret had received formal art training at the Bauhaus and thus
was active in both visual and literary arts. In addition to her
writing, she was interested in photography, pottery, and needlepoint.
Q) Why did Hans have to redraw all the pictures for Curious
A) Originally, Hans had created watercolor illustrations for
this, his first American book. However, in order to keep printing
costs down, many American publishers of this era required their
illustrators to create preseparated artwork for their books. This
meant that the artist would create four different drawings for
each illustrationone drawing for each of the colors of ink
that would be applied to the paper. Printers plates were
created from these separations and, if all went well, the colors
aligned perfectly on the printed page. In keeping with this practice,
Hans was asked to create separations for Curious George and his
original watercolors were tucked away. As the years passed and
publishing methods became more sophisticated, the cost of reproducing
original artwork fell. In 1998, fifty-seven years after it was
originally published, Houghton Mifflin produced a collectors
edition of The Original Curious George that was printed
from Hans original watercolors.
Q) How did Curious George Goes to the Hospital come about?
A) The Reys created this book at the request of officials
at Boston Childrens Hospital, who wanted a book to prepare
children for a hospital stay. The book was difficult to write
but brought a great deal of satisfaction to the Reys since so
many parents wrote to tell them how effective it was in reducing
their childs trauma.
Q) Why didnt Margrets name appear on all the early
Curious George books?
A) As Margret tells it, When we first came to America
our publisher suggested we use my husbands name because
the childrens book field was so dominated by women. They
thought it would sell better. After a time I thought, Why
the devil did I do that? so since then my name has appeared
Q) How large a role did George play in the Reys daily
A) George was, as Margret liked to say, Not an obsession
with me at all. But he is the family breadwinner; he has put food
on my table for many, many years. As such, he was afforded
a place of honor in their home, and there were various drawings,
toys, trinkets, and the like depicting George. From time to time,
too, the Reys would grant interviews about their most famous creation,
or meet with their young fans.
Q) Isnt there an interesting story behind the 2000 publication
of Whiteblack the Penguin Sees the World?
A) Anita Silvey, who at the time was the publisher for Houghton
Mifflin childrens books, discovered the unpublished manuscript
at an exhibition of the Reys papers presented by the de
Grummond Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi.
As Anita tells the story, I noticed a case enclosing an
intriguing watercolor drawing labeled Unpublished work of
H. A. Rey. Within a few minutes, Dee [Jones, curator of
the de Grummond Collection] produced the original sketches for
a book . . . suddenly I realized that the Reys had clearly brought
a fifth book from Paris. Houghton Mifflin published this
lost manuscript amidst much excitement and acclaim.