In 1940, Margret and H.A. Rey fled Paris on handmade bicycles, carrying the original Curious George manuscript with them. Little did they know they had produced a giant classic, starring a little monkey and his yellow-clad friend. Since its first publication, Curious George has grown into an empire consisting of seven original tales written by the Reys, as well as a published collection of “new adventures” by various authors (not to mention stop-motion films, several animated television series, Hollywood movies, and plenty of must-have monkey merchandise). With all that said, the original adventures and relatively “new adventures” are thought by many to be the quintessential Curious George experience. We’ve chosen our eight favorite stories below.
Curious George Flies a Kite
What does Curious George love most of all (besides The Man with the Yellow Hat)? Bunnies, of course! In Curious George Flies a Kite, all the mischief starts when George insists on investigating a rabbit hutch. From there, he embarks on an inevitable bunny rescue, a fishing fiasco, and a kite-flying catastrophe that threatens to take him far from home. Thankfully, his friend is there to save the day and he’s rewarded in the end with his very own pet bunny. One of the cutest chapters ever, with original H.A. Rey illustrations.
Curious George’s Dream
In this larger-than-life installment, our favorite monkey returns home from the amusement park where he’s been told all day long that he’s too small: too little to hold the bunnies at the petting zoo, too tiny to ride the carousel, too short to go on the roller coaster. As a result, he falls asleep that night while watching King Kong and dreams he’s a giant monkey…a giant monkey who has returned to the amusement park and is now TOO BIG to do anything! This story, with its funny, inflated illustrations and its one-size-fits-all moral, teaches readers to be both happy with who you are, but also to dream big.
Curious George Goes to the Hospital
Little monkeys have big appetites. And curious monkeys are willing to eat anything…even puzzle pieces. In Curious George Goes to the Hospital, George swallows a piece of his new jigsaw puzzle, only to end up needing surgery. A fabulous story to read to kids interested in, or apprehensive about, hospitals or operations, this entertaining and reassuring book details George’s x-ray experience, anesthesia, surgery, and recovery, along with plenty of harebrained fun in the children’s ward, including a puppet show, a ride on a record player, and a wheelchair race that results in an upturned food cart. Lots of scientific and rowdy fun are in this segment, which concludes with George receiving the puzzle piece that was inside him so he can go home and complete his jigsaw.
Curious George Makes Pancakes
What could possibly go awry when a little monkey decides to commandeer a fundraising pancake breakfast in the park? Why, he’s got four hands, two spatulas, an ever-growing line of spectators, and stacks of enthusiasm. This classic Curious George story is his stickiest situation of all, but also one of the sweetest, complete with George in a dunking tank and a grouchy-turned-grateful mayor.
Curious George and the Hot Air Balloon
Everyone knows Curious George is bound to get into some all-American trouble on a trip to Mount Rushmore, especially when a hot air balloon is involved. This tale delivers monumental mischief with one high-altitude flight, an emergency rescue from George Washington’s nose, and a helicopter ride that’s nearly presidential in nature.
Curious George and the Birthday Surprise
This story is a sweet treat for Curious George fans because it involves a visit from the ice cream truck, a cake-frosting debacle, a pack of hungry puppies, and a smorgasbord of wild party decorations, games, and gifts. It’s hard to decide if the cutest thing about this celebratory tale is the illustrations, which are classically bright and George-ous, or the fact that the party ends up being for George himself—a surprise ending for both him and readers.
Curious George Goes Camping
This gem is an irresistible addition to the Curious George collection as it plants George back in the wild where he faces off with deer, lizards, squirrels, bunnies, and a big “black-and-white kitty” that turns out to be a skunk! This epic little tale peaks with a forest fire and a tomato juice bath, then ends with a marshmallow roast, making it one of the most untamed Curious George chapters around.
This story makes the list partly because it’s the original one—the very first story of Curious George and The Man with the Yellow Hat—but mostly because it still strikes many as the best ever: the debut that set the stage for all the rollicking tales to come. From the jungles of Africa (where the Man with the Yellow Hat captures George) to a madcap ride on a cruise ship (where George goes briefly overboard) then eventually all the way to America, this wild introduction to our favorite monkey is truly full of monkey business. Pipe-smoking, an accidental crank call to the fire department, a stint in jail, and a helium balloon escape round out this first book which ends with a soft landing in a little bed. A must-read (and must-see, as well, if you can get your hands on the charming stop-motion) for all Curious George fans!
What’s your favorite Curious George adventure?