The Quick 10: Curious George Gets _flossy

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Curious George and The Man in the Yellow Hat have been around for nearly 70 years, and yet the little monkey has the same appeal to kids today as he did back in 1941. Here are a few facts "“ including H.A. and Margret Rey's narrow escape from Hitler "“ that you may not have known about George and his creators.

1. Curious George showed up in another H.A. Rey book before getting a series of his own. The book is titled Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys and it's still in print today, although the focus is less on Cecily G. (for giraffe, of course) and more about how it's "The First Book About Curious George!" If you buy the book, though, don't go looking for a monkey named George "“ the one that goes by the name "Fifi" in the book is the one that would eventually become the classic character.

2. The Man in the Yellow Hat never had a name in any of the books or their resulting cartoons"¦ until the 2006 film, when his name was given as "Ted Shackleford." He's just Ted in most of the movie, but a deleted scene revealed his surname as well.

3. Is a George by any other name as Curious? Our inquisitive little monkey friend is known by many other names around the world. He's "Peter Pedal" in Denmark, " "Nysgjerrige Nils" in Norway, "Nicke Nyfiken" in Sweden, "Hitomane Kozaru" in Japan, and "Choni Ha'Sakran" in Israel.

4. Although he's plain old George in the U.K., it wasn't always that way "“ at first he was renamed Zozo because it seemed rude to have a monkey that was seemingly named after then-King George VI (that would be the current Queen Elizabeth's dad).

5. If the Reys hadn't been quick thinkers, Curious George may have never been. They fled Paris, France, on homemade bicycles just hours before Hitler's army invaded during WWII. As you can imagine, fleeing on two wheels doesn't really leave much room for luggage. But the Reys decided they definitely wanted to bring several in-the-works manuscripts with them and managed to pack five in their meager belongings. One of them was the first Curious George book. It makes George's love of his bicycle a little more poignant, doesn't it?

6. That first book was published just a year after H.A. (Hans Augusto) and Margret fled Paris. Since then, more than 30 million copies of George books have been sold, and since the book has been translated into 16 languages (including Yiddish, Afrikaans and Braille), kids all over the world have had the pleasure of reading about George's adventures.

7. The drawings in the Curious George books are deceptively simple, but make no mistake that the Reys knew what they were doing. They were both trained artists and Margret even studied at the Bauhaus.

8. If you've ever noticed that some of the books credit only H.A. Rey and seem to leave poor Margret out of it completely, there's a reason. There were so many children's books on the market written by women at the time that George's marketers thought having a male (or ambiguous) author might make the book's appeal a bit broader. Once George was established as a hit, Margret was given the credit she deserved. Margret was in charge of writing and plot while Hans generally stuck to ideas and illustration.

9. It's no surprise the Reys wrote about monkeys and giraffes and other zoo animals "“ Hans grew up right by the Hagenbeck Zoo in Hamburg, Germany, and took great inspiration from it. Margret was an animal lover and whenever the two traveled together, one of the first stops on their list was the local zoo.

10. George has some fans in very high places. Or at least, he did. The CEO of Vivendi Universal, a media conglomerate that owned Curious George publisher Houghton Mifflin at the time, decided the little monkey would be a perfect corporate mascot for the brand. While he never became the official mascot, he did turn up in ads for Vivendi in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times in 2001. The CEO resigned in 2002, however, and by 2006 Houghton Mifflin had been sold again. I'm glad "“ I don't really want to see a beloved children's character shilling for a corporation, but maybe that's just me.

Are there any George fans reading? What's your take on the fairly recent revival - just as good as when you were a kid or not?

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April 21, 2010 - 1:19pm
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