- The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey
- written by Louise Borden
- illustrated by Allan Drummond
- published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2016)
- Roar Score: 5/5
As hard as it might be to believe, Curious George is still just as popular in 2017 as he’s been for the last 75 years. Yep: 75 years. Did I blow your mind? He’s gone from simple illustrations in a few picture books to becoming the center of a global franchise that includes an endless supply of books, toys, TV shows, and movies.
But have you ever wondered about the couple behind the perennially popular character, Margret and H.A. Rey? Turns out that have a remarkably compelling story, and the Curious George we all know and love almost never made it out of Nazi-occupied France!
The Journey That Saved Curious George originally came out in 2010, and this version is a new, smaller edition with some new back matter (including a conversation with Louise Borden and activities).
The Reys’ story is indeed dramatic as they were German Jews living in Paris in 1940 while Hitler’s army was closing in on the city. Their escape from the city and through France – on bicycles! – has become the stuff of legend. They traveled from Paris, through France, across Spain and Portgual, across the ocean to Brazil, and then finally up to New York City.
And all the while, they carried little George (or at least his sketches and manuscript) with them.
This young readers book includes a LOT of photographs, sketches, and ticket stubs – and actual pages from H.A. Rey’s diary. It tells the Reys’ story in an approachable, engaging way and presents the events surrounding their escape and World War II in a manner that most kids can understand – if not relate to.
The story it tells is indeed fascinating, but it also reveals just how lucky and privileged the Reys truly were. They had so many opportunities that other Europeans – especially Jews – simply didn’t have.
The Reys had the money and contacts necessary to escape, and they did so (for the most part) in luxury. Their 13-day journey from Lisbon to South America, for example, was done from the comfort of a first-class cabin.
Still, this is a beautiful little book that any Curious George fan (of any age) should own.
(Disclosure: HMH provided us with a review copy of this book. All opinions remain our own.)