Thursday, June 18, 2009

Curious George Teaches Us about Recycling!

H.A. Rey was born in 1898 and his wife Margret was born in 1906.

Who would believe they'd still be alive and publishing books in 2009?

What's that? They're not still alive? Mrs. Rey died in 1996 and Mr. Rey died back in 1977...?

But...but they've got a brand-new book out!

Their names are right on the cover: want me to look on the title page?


See, there are the names MARGRET & H.A. REY again. All in caps! In color even!

Oh, what's this at the bottom of the page...?

Other smaller print?

Yeah, this book appears to be written by someone named...Monica Perez. And it's illustrated "in the style of H.A. Rey" by Anna Grossnickle Hines.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. It's not a new phenomenon. The library where I work owns the 1998 title CURIOUS GEORGE MAKES PANCAKES "based on the original character by Margret and H.A. Rey" (no author or illustrator mentioned), as well as 2003's CURIOUS GEORGE AND THE BIRTHDAY SURPRISE (author unattributed, but "illustrated in the style of H.A. Rey by Martha Weston"), and CURIOUS GEORGE GOES TO A CHOCOLATE FACTORY (a 1998 volume with illustrations "in the style of H.A. Rey by Vipah Interactive.") That last one really slays me, with its blatant grab for both Rey and Roald Dahl fans. And unless "Interactive" is Vipah's last name, the book appears to be illustrated not by an individual...but by a company!

Most people know the story of H.A. and Margret Rey smuggling the original CURIOUS GEORGE manuscript out of France on home-made bicycles just hours before Paris fell to the Nazis. Published by Houghton Mifflin in 1941, the book became a classic and spawned a half dozen legitimate sequels -- "legitimate" meaning they were written and illustrated by the Reys themselves. Unfortunately CURIOUS GEORGE PLANTS A TREE doesn't add any luster to the reputation of the series. In this very purposeful tale, George learns to "reduce, reuse, recycle" and then causes some mischief when he collects items from neighbors for the science museum's "Green Day" celebration. The heavy-handed book concludes with "20 kid-friendly tips for a greener world." Hey, want a tip on how the publisher could have saved a few trees...? The writing is generic, the illustrations are pallid. And, all told, wouldn't you rather read a book that's "inspired" than one that's "inspired by"? CURIOUS GEORGE PLANTS A TREE (and ...VISITS A CHOCOLATE FACTORY and ...TAKES A TRAIN and ...VISITS A TOY STORE) dilute the power and magic of the creators' original works. So why monkey around with success?

On the other hand, who better to teach us about living green than Curious George... considering how many times he's been reused and recycled himself?


Kristin said...

What an unusual illustration departure for Anna Grossnickle Hines.

Anonymous said...

Blech. I hate it when they do that... both imitating the original Curious George, and then trying to teach kids something. I don't think Curious George Rides a Bike or Curious George Gets a Job were trying to teach something, and that's a part of their charm that is now lost in these newer books.
They are doing this with Kay Thompson's Eloise, too, and I hate that just as much.
Jeanne K.

Fuse #8 said...

Such a glorious capper to the end of the post. Someday I hope to be able to write blog pieces as well as you, sir.

Anonymous said...

Pardon the language, but what a load of crap. There's a sort of contempt for actual authors and artists shown by publishers when they do this sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

I collect kids story books too and hope my child will want to read them someday. Otherwise it will be all for nothing.

Unknown said...

Hey there. I like your column very much. I'm also writing a column about children's book at and I write reviews at I've actually been very curious about the who and the what of Vipah Interactive for some time. I imagine this large supercomputer which churns out picture books, a dozen a pop. Also, the absolute immorality of not including the names of the people who actually wrote and illustrated the book is staggering. The next column I write is going to be about Curious George, and I actually contacted someone who used to work for Vipah Interactive and he agreed to let me interview him! So, if you check out my column next month, hopefully we'll get to the bottom of whats going on.

By the by, I would love to link to your column, if I may.