The Journey That Saved Curious George : The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey by Louise Borden, illustrated by Allan Drummond

(Suggested reading level: Grades 3-6)

I love Curious George, especially his new adventures and the PBS cartoon. We have two box sets that I’d read over and over with Amber when she was younger, but I never knew the story behind Curious George.

I mentioned the other day about author’s own experiences showing up in their works of fiction. I didn’t realize how soon the topic would come up again, but Hans Reyersbach, who eventually changed his name to H. A. Rey, left his home in Germany in his early twenties and headed to Brazil.

It was hot in Brazil—so Hans wore a broad hat, even in the shad of Rio’s palm trees and cafés. When he traveled up and down the Amazon River, Hans watched the monkeys and made drawings of them. (pg. 12-13)

I can certainly see where the famous man in the yellow hat and his monkey were born, but the world almost never met them.

When World War II started, the Reys were Jews living in Paris and the time came when they knew they needed to flee. The second half of the book tells the story of their escape by bicycle, train and eventually taking a boat to America. It was a dramatic journey, and they took few possessions with them, but they did manage to hold on to the manuscript that eventually became Curious George.

Borden does a wonderful job of telling the story, making it dramatic but enjoyable for children and adults alike. Many of the primary source documents, photos, and sketches she used in her research have been included as illustrations in the book, making it a treasure trove for lovers of childrens literature.

I can’t recommend this book enough for those who have been fans of Curious George for years, those who are just discovering him, and those with an interest in World War II stories.

I read this as part of the Choose to Read Ohio program. So, what’s the Ohio connection?

Louise Borden, the author, was born in Cincinnati and still lives in the area. According to the State Library of Ohio’s site, Borden grew up fascinated by the stories of ordinary people and their relation to historical events. An avid reader of nonfiction and historical fiction, Borden majored in history at Denison University.

In 1971, Borden (then Walker) married Peter Borden. It was when the younger of their two daughters started elementary school that Borden began work on her first children’s book. Her love of history has come into play in many of the books that have followed, as has her experience with children’s thoughts, feelings, and concerns. Borden enjoys playing tennis, watching baseball (she’s still an avid fan of the Cincinnati Reds), and reading, a pastime which keeps her mindful of the interests of her audience.

A toolkit is available that includes discussion questions, additional resources and extension activities. You can access it here.

Published September 26, 2005 by Houghton Mifflin
71 pages

Challenges: Read Ohio, 100+, A to Z

I borrowed my copy from the library and the above is my honest opinion. I am an Amazon associate.