Sunday, September 15, 2013

Happy Birthday H.A. Rey - September 16

Happy Birthday H.A. (Hans Augusto) Rey - September 16
(September 16, 1898 - August 26, 1977)

The story of how Hans and Margret Rey came to publish Curious George is simply amazing. I first read the story two years ago on Anita Silvey's website, Children's Book-a-Day Almanac. She described the sequence of events and then said, "No story demonstrates the miracle of children's books as much as Curious George. No matter how, where and when great children's books begin, or their trials on the way to publication -- they can reach across generations, across time and history, to speak to the children born today."

In June 1940, France was under attack and the Nazi army was threatening the capital city of Paris.  Hans pieced together two bicycles to flee the city along with his wife,  Margret and many unpublished manuscripts.  They just made out. It was a close call, and things got much more tense when they were stopped under suspicion of being spies. When a guard inspected their belongings and found their manuscripts he said, "My children would like can continue." (Children's Book-a-Day Almanac).  The Reys continued their adventure to Spain, then Portugal, on to Brazil, and finally in New York, in October of 1940, where Margret's sister lived. (The Jewish Museum). The following year, one of the manuscripts that traveled with the Reys' on their remarkable journey became Curious George.

Hans and Margret Rey's first book for children was published in France as Rafi et les Singes or Raffy and the 9 Monkeys. (Later, published in the United States as Cecily G. and the 9 Monkeys.) One of the nine monkeys in the book was Fifi. Hans and Margret wrote a story, Fifi: The Adventures of a Monkey, which was one of the manuscripts that made it to America after that amazing escape from Paris. Grace Hogarth, the American editor who purchased the Reys' first four books, "suggested that George would be a stronger name than Fifi." (source: The afterword to Cecily G. and the 9 Monkeys).  Hans and Margret went on to publish seven Curious George stories including Curious George Takes a Job and Curious George Flies a Kite. Hans clarified Margaret's involvement with the books when he said, "even those that do not show Margret's name on the title own much to her help; she usually does the text and criticizes my drawings while they are in progress." (NWDA). It is hard to imagine that the 30,000,000 Curious George books that have been sold worldwide may have never come to be without impeccable timing, luck, determination, and a couple of bicycles. (Houghton Mifflin Books).

I don't think my children have a favorite Curious George adventure, because they love them all, but when we read Curious George Rides a Bike it was pretty easy to come up with a way to celebrate H.A. Rey's birthday.
This reading experience began after I read this page and my son asked "Dad, can we make those sometime?"
My son and I reread Curious George Rides a Bike in our driveway.  We laughed together when George did his tricks on his bike. (I wonder if Hans rode his bike backwards or like a cowboy on a wild bronco on his way out of Paris!) Then, we made a paper boat when we came to the page that described how George made a fleet paper boats from the newspapers that he was supposed to be delivering to the houses in the neighborhood.
My son was super excited with his paper boat, but to be honest my first attempt was really bad.  The boat was too big and floppy! My son asked, "Where are we going to go?" I said, "Do you mean, where are we going to launch your boat?"  He nodded his head, and I told him we were going to do it in the backyard.
Our backyard has a small hill. We started at the top and unrolled a whole roll (30 ft.) of aluminum foil. It was a little breezy so my son placed rocks all along the foil to keep it from blowing away until we could get the water going.
We placed the hose at the top and turned it on to start our river. Once he placed his boat down on the foil he said, "This boat is too big."
So we made a smaller one. 
After a few gentle pushes his boat started to go.
He was so thrilled to watch it travel down our backyard river!
And yes, he is wearing a football jersey, a vampire shirt, and a lone ranger vest all at the same time.  He is currently evaluating all options for his Halloween costume.
He was pretty excited about his paper boat launches, but then it started to rain! 
He took his wet boat inside and got it a towel so it could dry.
While we waited for the rain shower to pass we made more paper boats and decorated them with many colors.

If you are on Pinterest, please pin this picture. Follow Happy Birthday Author too!

The rain eventually passed and we were able to get a few more launches in before the next shower showed up. Check out this video of one of our paper boat launches:

In 1994, Madeleine L'Engle wrote, "H.A. Rey's little monkey endears himself to all who encounter him; his adventures have passed the test of time." (The Adventures of Curious George).  Someday, I hope my son has the opportunity to read the Curious George stories and make paper boats with his own children.

1. Curious George Website
2. Houghton Mifflin Books' Curious George Website
3. Follow Curious George on Facebook
4. The Curious George Store (Cambridge, MA) - Website
5. Margret and H.A. Rey Center (Waterville Valley, NH) - Website
6. Margret and H.A. Rey: Life in Paris and a Narrow Escape - The Jewish Museum
7. H.A. Rey Biography - NWDA
8. About Curious George - Anita Silvey's Book-a-Day Almanac
9. About Whiteblack the Penguin See the World - Anita Silvey's Book-a-Day Almanac

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