This is George.
He lived in Africa.
He was a good little monkey
and always very curious.
These are the words that begin the adventures of Curious George in Margret and H. A. Rey's 1941 classic children's book.
The charming tale of this mischievous monkey has quite a history, both on and off the page.
George began life as Fifi in Rafi et les 9 singes (later renamed Cecily G. and the 9 Monkeys). In this early work Fifi, dubbed the 'clever' monkey, proved so irresistible that his creators decided to dedicate their talents to bring his story to life.
Meanwhile, in their own lives Margret and Hans Augusto were having their own adventures. Deeply in love, these German Jews settled in Paris, France to escape the rise of Nazism. In this idyllic landscape the couple enjoyed life in their Montmartre neighborhood and the French countryside. They worked on "The Adventures of Fifi" until the German army began to invade France.
The threat of Hitler's soldiers finally forced them to escape Paris via bicycle on the morning of June 12, 1940 with the manuscript for what would become the first Curious George book in a leather satchel.
Evidently on this journey, by bicycle and train, from Paris through Spain and Portugal the manuscript charmed border patrol officers and passport officials allowing the Rey's to continue their journey unfettered.
Eventually they made their way to America where they became United States citizens in 1946.
Their story is currently on exhibit at The Jewish Museum until August 1, 2010. The exhibit contains artifacts such as the original artwork for Curious George and personal records of the Rey's. A fascinating must-see for any Curious George fan.
You can also read more about it in Louise Borden's book The Journey That Saved Curious George.