Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by konner. konner Wonders, “was curious george almost captured by the nazis” Thanks for WONDERing with us, konner!

Today’s Wonder of the Day is about a cute little animal who’s always getting himself into trouble. He has a very curious mind. Have you guessed who we’re talking about? Here’s another hint: he loves bananas. That’s right! Today, we’re learning about Curious George!

Millions of people know the monkey from the Curious George books, movies, and television shows. But few know much about his creators. Let’s explore how they brought one of the world’s most famous monkeys to life…and escaped from the German Nazis to do so!

Have you ever read one of the Curious George books? If so, you know the authors are listed as H. A. Rey and Margret Rey. Those are the pen names of Hans Reyersbach and Margarete Waldstein. Both authors were born in Hamburg, Germany, but that’s not where they met. They found each other in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

Hans was an artist who sketched and painted while also selling bathtubs and plumbing fixtures. Margarete was a photographer. The two married in 1935 and started an advertising agency. Margarete changed her name to “Margret.” They both changed their last name to “Rey,” because they thought it would be easier for people in Brazil to pronounce.

The couple also became Brazilian citizens. They enjoyed life in Rio de Janeiro. There, they kept two marmoset monkeys as pets. When they sailed to Paris for a honeymoon, they took the monkeys with them. Unfortunately, both animals died before arriving in Europe.

In Paris, the Reys began to write and illustrate children’s books. They were inspired by their pet monkeys from Brazil. Hans drew the illustrations and Margret came up with the stories. In 1939, they began a story about a young monkey who was always getting into trouble. They called it “The Adventures of Fifi.”

Unfortunately, Hitler’s Nazi troops invaded France in May 1940. Hundreds of thousands of Parisians fled the city. Though in serious danger due to their Jewish faith, the Reys were hesitant to leave. They almost waited too long. By the time they decided to flee Paris, there wasn’t a single car or bike available in the city.

Hans searched for and bought every spare bicycle part he could find. In a matter of days, he was able to cobble together two bicycles. The Reys fled from Paris on the morning of June 12, 1940. They brought just a few possessions, including the manuscripts and drawings that would become the first Curious George book. Just two days later, the German Nazis captured the city.

With military planes flying overhead, they joined millions of other refugees on the road south to safety. They stayed in farmhouses and stables as they rode their bikes and caught trains when they could. Finally, they made their way to Spain. From there, they went to Portugal and finally back to Brazil.

In October 1940, the Reys sailed to New York City. They found a publisher for their book who suggested they rename their main character. Fifi became George, and Curious George was published in 1941.

In many ways, Curious George’s antics reflect his creators’ struggles to escape the German Nazis. He rides a bike. He dreams of flying. He finds himself caught up in circumstances beyond his control.

George’s story became one of the most popular children’s books of the 20th century. The monkey’s adventures spawned other books, movies, television shows, plays, games, stuffed animals, toys, and more. To date, more than 75 million copies of Curious George books have been sold in over a dozen languages worldwide.

Have you ever read a Curious George book? Do you have your own great idea for an exciting new children’s book? Now is a great time to start writing. We can’t wait to see your characters’ grand adventure!

Standards: C3.D2.His.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

Wonder What's Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day is growing like a weed…and that’s not a good thing!