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Frequently Asked Questions About Curious George

Why didn”t Margret”s name appear on all the early Curious George books?

As Margret told it, “When we first came to America, our publisher suggested we use my husband’s name because the children’s 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 also.”

Where did Hans and Margret get their ideas?

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 inspired the story of George’s own space flight in Curious George Gets a Medal. Earlier in the same book, George’s 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 like visit a museum or...

Did the Reys like animals?

Both Hans and Margret were very fond of animals, and their first stop when visiting a new city was always 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 animals—an orphaned chipmunk named Coffee, whom Hans had hand-fed with an eyedropper and returned to the wild—came back each summer to visit his human friends.

How did Curious George Goes to the Hospital come about?

The Reys created this book at the request of officials at Boston Children’s 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 because so many parents wrote to tell them how it eased their child’s trauma.

Did Margret and Hans limit themselves to children”s books, or did their creativity find other outlets?

Margret and Hans founded the first advertising agency in Rio de Janeiro, where Hans produced a variety of advertising art and Margret wrote ad copy. Throughout his life, Hans also drew maps and posters, illustrated cookbooks, and designed holiday cards for businesses and personal 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.

Margret and Hans Rey were both born in Germany. How did they wind up in America?

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

How large a role did George play in the Reys” daily lives?

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, the Reys would also grant interviews about their most famous creation, or meet with their young fans.

How did the Reys work together to create their wonderful books?

Hans liked to say that the couple had “our books, her books, and my books,” and the process behind each of these 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 usually 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.

Why did Hans have to redraw all the pictures for Curious George?

Originally, Hans had created watercolor illustrations for Curious George, his first American book. However, 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 illustration — one drawing for each color of ink that would be applied to the paper. Printer’s plates were created from these separations and, if all went well, the colors blended 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 first published, Houghton Mifflin produced a collector’s edition of The Original Curious George that was printed from Hans’s original watercolors.

Isn't there an interesting story behind the 2000 publication of Whiteblack the Penguin Sees the World?

Anita Silvey, who at the time was the publisher for Houghton Mifflin Children’s Books, discovered the 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 …

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