Monday, July 26, 2010

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

This is the first time that I am participating in Non-Fiction Monday and I am very excited. I have chosen to write about The Journey that Saved Curious George by Louise Borden, though I have to be honest and say that I have never been a big fan of Curious George, but I have a foster child who was (she is now 22 and a recent college grad - hurray.) We recently went to the Jewish Museum in New York City to see the exhibition they have about the Reys' escape from Nazi occupied Europe. It was an excellent exhibit, but unfortunately, it ends on August 1st. If you have time this week and happen to be in NYC, it is definitely worth seeing. If you can't make it to the museum, be sure to look at their website at

Naturally, after seeing this exhibit, I went to the library and borrowed the companion book. The Journey that Saved Curious George begins with a short biography of Hans Augusto Reyersbach, who later became known as H A Rey and his future wife Margarete (Margret) Waldstein. They were both born and raised Jewish in Hamburg, Germany though they didn't know each other then. They met and married in Brazil and eventually moved to Paris. The majority of the book is then devoted to their flight through France on bicycles built by Rey, always just ahead of the Nazis. Their lives are paralleled with the evolution of the Curious George character. The story is told in simple prose by Borden that never condescends to the reader, although it is written more for 9-12 year old than for younger kids who might still be reading the Curious George books. The ink and watercolor illustrations by Allan Drummond are just wonderful and supplemented throughout with photos and documents belonging to the Reys'. Many of the photos were taken by Margret Rey.

This is one of my favorite illustrations from the book, detailing people fleeing from Paris. While Drummond's illustration looks rather whimsical, it still manages the catch the sense of tension and fear people must have felt. The Reys' loved Paris and it must have been a very difficult decision to flee, leaving behind most of their personal belongings, their friends and way of life for the unknown. But many people, like the Reys', were forced into making that choice to save their lives.
The Journey that Saved Curious George reminded me of an old novel I was given and had read a while back called The Schoolgirl Fugitives by Agnes M. Miall. Published in 1942, it is about two English schoolgirls who must flee their boarding school in Paris as the Nazis approach. Their flight through the French countryside is very similar to the one made by the Reys'.

A book guide for The Journey that Saved Curious George is available from the publisher Houghton Mifflin at It is recommended for educators and librarians, though I think it could be valuable to anyone interested in H.A. and Margret Rey and their escape from France and the Nazis.


Non-Fiction Monday is hosted this week by


  1. Hi. I just learned of your blog via the Kidlitosphere listserv and was really intrigued by the idea. I am involved with the Association of Jewish Libraries and their Sydney Taylor Book Award for children's/YA lit that authentically portrays the Jewish experience. Sydney Taylor Awards have often gone to books relating to WWII. In fact, The Journey That Saved Curious George was a silver medalist in 2006! If you look at our list of past winners, you are sure to find more great WWII-related titles:

    Keep up the good work,
    Heidi Estrin
    AJL Vice President

  2. Hi Heidi
    Thanks for the kind words. I will definitely look at the web site for Jewish Libraries. I am sorry that I somehow missed that The Journey That Saved Curious George was a silver medalist in 2006. It is one of the things I always check for.


  3. I really enjoy your reviews--thorough, with interesting tidbits and asides. I think the Curious George books came out after my childhood, so I never read them, but this book sounds like a good read.