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The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey

The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey

4.8 6
by Louise Borden, Allan Drummond (Illustrator)

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In 1940, Hans and Margret Rey fled their Paris home as the German army advanced. They began their harrowing journey on bicycles, pedaling to Southern France with children’s book manuscripts among their few possessions.

Louise Borden combed primary resources, including Hans Rey’s pocket diaries, to tell this dramatic true story. Archival materials


In 1940, Hans and Margret Rey fled their Paris home as the German army advanced. They began their harrowing journey on bicycles, pedaling to Southern France with children’s book manuscripts among their few possessions.

Louise Borden combed primary resources, including Hans Rey’s pocket diaries, to tell this dramatic true story. Archival materials introduce readers to the world of Hans and Margret Rey while Allan Drummond dramatically and colorfully illustrates their wartime trek to a new home.

Follow the Rey’s amazing story in this unique large format book that resembles a travel journal and includes full-color illustrations, original photos, actual ticket stubs and more. A perfect book for Curious George fans of all ages.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A stirring, uplifting, and elegantly packaged saga."--Publishers Weekly, starred Publishers Weekly, Starred

"More than a first biography of picture book icons, this is a fine introduction to the period for young children, a model of documentation, and an exceptionally inviting and well-designed book." --Horn Book Horn Book

Publishers Weekly
The legendary tale about the Reys' 1940 flight from Paris on bicycles just before the Nazis stormed the City of Light comes into clear focus here, thanks to Borden's diligent research and lucid writing. Reproductions of Hans Rey's diary entries, letters from publishers and photos many taken by Margret lend the book authenticity and immediacy. Drummond's watercolors add a spirited splash of color to the handsomely designed paper-over-board volume. His illustrations display a whimsy and energy appealingly reminiscent of the Reys' art, while still uniquely his own; the artist also effectively conveys the somber side of this extraordinary story. Borden sketches the childhoods of Hans and Margret, both raised in Jewish families in Hamburg, who in 1935 teamed up professionally, and then married, in Rio de Janeiro (where, curiously and quite satisfyingly, they had two mischievous pet marmosets). The couple then moved to Paris, where they began writing and illustrating children's books, including one starring a "very curious little monkey" named Fifi. The details of the Reys' escape from Paris underscore the sense of urgency. Since trains had stopped running, they tried to buy bicycles, but shops were sold out, so Hans bought spare parts and built two bikes. A wordless, frenetic spread dramatizes their part in "the largest motorized evacuation in history." At last they reached America, where Fifi, too, found a home, at Houghton Mifflin and a new name. A stirring, uplifting and elegantly packaged saga. Ages 8-12. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Sometimes truth is stranger and more magnificent than fiction as is evidenced by this amazing account of the lives of the creators of Curious George. The story of Hans Reyersbach (later shortened to Rey) and Margarete Waldstein (later changed to Margret) begins with their childhoods in Hamburg, Germany. Both were artistic and both were Jewish. Hamburg was economically depressed following World War I, so Hans emigrated to Brazil. Some years later Margret also traveled to that country where they made connections, were married, and became Brazilian citizens. Their honeymoon trip to Europe became an extended stay of almost five years as they settled into Terrass Hotel in Paris. Together they began to create books for children. When Hitler began to invade Europe they felt confident that the war would stay far from France, but they were wrong. In May of 1940, they realized that they must leave the country quickly. By then, Paris was filled with homeless refugees traveling south by whatever means available. The trains were not running, but Hans managed to get pieces for two bicycles, put them together, and plan their escape. Taking only a few pieces of clothing and their treasured manuscripts, the Reys cycled for three days to Orleans and managed to get onto a train to Bayonne. From there they cycled to Biarritz where they spent several days before boarding a train to Lisbon and the ship that would take them to Rio de Janeiro. After a two-month delay, they continued on to New York City and later became U.S. citizens. The excitement and intrigue of this adventure is depicted in Drummund's full-color illustrations. The text is also supplemented with photographs and copies of important papers, suchas passports, pages from original manuscripts, and carefully-detailed diary entries from Hans' pocket calendar. The book closes with "After the Escape" which summarizes the lives and publications of these two courageous people. A partial bibliography of their books is also included. A good choice for any library that has copies of Curious George and other books by the Reys. 2005, Hougton Mifflin, Ages 8 to 12.
—Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-This beautifully designed volume is a must-have for children's literature buffs. The book is divided into two parts: the first gives background on the couple's childhoods and early life together; the second half is devoted to their dramatic escape from World War II-torn Europe. Husband and wife were both Jewish, born in Hamburg. After serving in the German army during World War I, Hans sailed to Brazil, where he wore a big hat and sailed down the Amazon. Margaret, an old family friend, joined him in 1935, and they soon married. Their honeymoon in Paris lasted four years. It was here that they began writing children's books about a curious little monkey named Fifi. By May of 1940 it was clear they must flee. So begins the second part. Tirelessly cycling by day, they boarded train after train as the Nazis occupied Paris, finally sailing to Rio. From there, it was on to New York, and within a year, Curious George was published. An afterword describes the balance of their lives. Borden spent years going through personal papers, notebooks, and photographs, and contacted people who knew the Reys. As a result, the book is richly detailed. Drummond's charming watercolors appear throughout, some full page, and many sharing or framing a page of text. In addition, abundant primary-source documents and photos along with original art combine to complete this attractive package. An appealing choice for biography assignments and units on World War II or refugees.-Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Borden begins her spare, lyrical text with the Hamburg childhoods of her protagonists, Hans Augusto Reyersbach and Margarete Waldstein, who grew up to become H.A. and Margaret Rey. From Hamburg to Rio de Janeiro to prewar Paris, the narrative-stunningly embellished with period photographs, sketches, reproductions of Rey's diary and letters to and from editors, and vignettes of their famous characters-takes the two talented Jewish artists to the brink of war. Their joy in each other, their love of animals (including a pet monkey) and their pleasure in the creation of their picture books shine through, painting a beautifully humane portrait of these lions of children's literature. The Paris idyll cut short by the Nazi advance, the text becomes a catalog of the items needed to get the couple out of Paris, which they did on bicycle in a thrilling escape-with the precious manuscript that became Curious George. If the artifact seems all-too-patently created to join the George publishing machine, it is nevertheless a lovely work, Drummond's movement-filled watercolors evoking but never imitating the work of his subjects. (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-10)

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Curious George Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.30(w) x 10.80(h) x 0.30(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Allan Drummond studied illustration at the Royal College of Art in London and has lived and worked in France and the USA. www.allandrummond.com.

Louise Borden is the highly regarded author of many books, including Good Luck, Mrs. K!, Sleds on Boston Common, Good-bye, Charles Lindbergh and The Little Ships: The Heroic Rescue at Dunkirk in WW II, published by Margaret McElderry Books, and The Journey That Saved Curious George, Across the Blue Pacific, and His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg, published by HMH. She lives with her husband, Pete, in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has three grown children. Her website can be found at www.louiseborden.com.

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The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
CBDCD More than 1 year ago
Great book! Wonderful and touching story about the creators of books all children know. Great for adults and older kids 4th grade and up, especially interesting from the WWII aspects. My son loves WWII history and really liked this book--puts war issues into a perspective that he could understand.
ESL_teacher More than 1 year ago
As an elementary teacher I really enjoyed reading the story of how the writers/illustrators of the Curious George books escaped from the invading army in WWII. I plan on using the book with my students. The story gives another viewpoint that helps children understand the effects of war. Loved the illustrations.
FarToGo More than 1 year ago
Who knew there was such an adventure behind the way Curious Goerge always saves the day? Now I know why there is always a bicycle somewhere in the picture, too. The creators of Curious George are true heroes of a very special kind.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book!!Shows the safety fight of Margaret and H.A Rey. MLVRCS Charter School
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago