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             Rey, H. A. (Hans Augusto), 1898-1977.

Co-creator of the inquisitive monkey prone to finding trouble. There are 35 Curious George books, including Curious George, Curious George Flies a Kite and Curious George Goes to the Hospital, and more than 20 million copies of them have been sold

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Biography: H.A. Rey

     Hans Augusto Rey was born in Hamburg, Germany on September 16, 1898 to Alexander and Martha Reyerbasch. He grew up near Hagenbeck Zoo, which he visited frequently fueling his love for animals. He spent much of his time drawing the animals (School). Consequently he became an artist at an early age.

     Hans served in the German Army during World War I, where he discovered his fascination with astronomy. After the war, he attended the University of Hamburg where he studied Philosophy, Natural Sciences, and became fluent in four modern languages (Smith 287). Later, Hans moved to Rio de Janeiro where he continued the family business of selling bathtubs. It was here that he met Margaret Waldstein a second time, who had fled to Rio de Janeiro to escape German politics. She was an author and illustrator, and would become his future wife. They had met years earlier in Hamburg. Hans and Margaret were married in Rio de Janeiro in 1935. Shortly after, Hans opened an advertising agency, before he and Margaret moved to Paris in 1936 to work on children’s books (Smith 287). They had taken their honeymoon there and fell in love with the city. It was here that Hans published his first children’s book, Ruffy and the Nine Monkeys, in 1939 (About). It was in this book that Curious George was first introduced. The couple decided to give Curious George a solo book, so they began work on a new project.

     But unfortunately, all was not well for the couple in Paris. The events of World War II were threatening the Jewish Reys, and it was no longer safe for them to live there. To escape, Hans put random parts together to form two bicycles. They left Paris on June 14, 1940 taking with them coats, food and five manuscripts, one being Curious George. The couple rode for four days until they reached Lisbon, Portugal, where they traded in their bicycles for train fare. The Reys decided to move back to Brazil and eventually to New York City. It was here that Houghton Mifflin published Curious George for the first time in 1941.

     H. A. Rey put a lot of his own influences and life experiences into the Curious George series. One particular event that stands out is the Reys traveled to America by boat, which is how Curious George also arrives in America. Another example that one can see is the relation between the Reys bike voyage out of Germany, which happens to be one of the first things we see Curious George do as well. But there are also connotations that are in the stories that seem to have a deeper relation. One might say that Curious George being held caged in a zoo could stand for the Reys feeling of entrapment during World War II. Another relation that could be taken is that the man in the big yellow hat stands for comfort and shelter to Curious George, just as America held comfort and shelter for the Reys. There are many other relations that one can take from the story, but it is purely the Reys’ imagination and creativity that make the stories enjoyable even for today’s youth.

     Although Curious George is what the Reys are known for, they did write many other books. Several of their books were even under the pen name “Uncle Gus”, which was picked up as a traditional ‘southern’ name. The Reys also wrote some non-fiction books. H. A. wrote and illustrated Find the Constellations. In it, he was able to share his love for astronomy with youth. He created star patterns out of a stick-figure method to teach the name and theme of each constellation (Introduction 189). Rey once commented that his astronomy books were based on a system of star identification that he invented (Mahony 182). Stemming from his love for science, Hans became a member of many science related organizations, such as: the American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science, Federation of American Scientists, Amateur Astronomers Assoc., Astronomical League, and the Waterville Valley Athletic and Improvement Assoc. (Mahony 181).

     Hans also broke some barriers with his illustrations that other people were shocked at. He chose to include black children in his illustrations, which was relatively unheard of in the 1940’s.

     Sadly the world lost one of its literary minds on August 26, 1977. H. A. Rey died at the age of seventy-eight in Boston Massachusetts. But his life was certainly not without accomplishments. His books have been translated into nine different languages and over twenty million copies have been sold throughout the world (Mahony 165). H. A. Rey can truly be called a major contributor to the realm of literature.

Work Cited

"About H.A. and Margaret Rey." Curious George. 2002. Houghton Mifflin Company.
    18 September 2002.

Introduction. "H(ans) A(ugusto) Rey, 1898-1977 Margret Rey, 1906-." Children's Literature Review. Vol. 5. Ed. Gerard J. Senick. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1983. 188-193.

Mahony, Bertha E. "Rey, H(ans) A(ugusto) 1898- (Uncle Gus)." Publishers Weekly. 2 January 1943: Rpt. in Something About the Author. Ed. Anne Commire. Vol 1. Detroit: Gale Research, 1971: 181-182..

Mahony, Bertha E. "Rey, H(ans) A(ugusto) 1898-1977, (Uncle Gus)." Publishers Weekly. 2 January 1943 Rpt. in Something About the Author. Ed. Anne Commire. Vol 26. Detroit: Gale Research, 1982: 162-165.

"School Direct: Language Arts- Award Winning Authors and Illustrators for H.A. Rey and Margret." School Direct. Houghton Mifflin Company. 2000. 18 September 2002.

Smith, Louisa. "H. A. Rey." Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol. 22. Ed. John Cech. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1983. 286-289.