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Picture Books Author of the Month
Margret Rey
Margret Rey
16 May 1906 -- 21 December 1996

Margret Elizabeth Waldstein was born on May 16, 1906 in Hamburg, Germany. Margret was the daughter of Felix Waldstein, a well-known member of the German parliament. The large Waldstein home, which accommodated five children, four servants, a dog, and her father's numerous political colleagues, was filled with activity.

In 1919, Hans Augusto (H.A.) Rey, then 21, was mustered out of the German army. He wanted to attend art school, but the economic climate of post-World-War-I Germany prevented that possibility. He simply could not afford tuition. He instead attended both the University of Munich and the University of Hamburg. He was majoring in philosophy and natural sciences. At the time, he supported himself doing freelance artwork. It was while he was attending school in Hamburg in 1923 that H.A. met Margret. He was dating her older sister.

In 1924, H.A. accepted a job offer from relatives at their import firm in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The position included "selling bathtubs up and down the Amazon River" [1]. It was a position that he held for 12 years.

In Germany, Margret had started her own studies. She had formal art training at the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany in 1927. From 1928 to 1929, Margret took courses at the Dusseldorf Academy of Art, and she attended the University of Munich from 1929 to 1934, during which she held one-woman shows of watercolors in Berlin.

In 1928, Margret took a position as a reporter and an advertising copywriter in Berlin, it was a position that also took her to London and Rio de Janeiro. It was while she was in Rio de Janeiro in 1935 that she was reunited with H.A. Rey. The two quickly became reacquainted and joined forces to create a small advertising agency. The relationship soon blossomed into love, and they married that year. They honeymooned in Europe and settled in Paris, France in 1936.

The Reys made a new life for themselves in Paris. Margret became a freelance writer and H.A. sold illustrations to various French publications. It was also in Paris that the couple began producing children's picture books. It all started when a French publisher saw a humorous drawing of a giraffe that H.A. had made. They asked the Reys to collaborate on a children's book. the result was the 1939 book Raffi et les Neuf Singes (Raffi and the Nine Monkeys). One of the nine monkeys was the prototype for Curious George. The Reys produced half a dozen books during their four year residence in Paris. The books were published in France and England.

In June 1940, the Reys were forced to flee Paris only hours ahead of the advancing armies of the Third Reich. They fled on their bicycles to southern France. The Reys made their way to Lisbon by train and eventually to New York City in October by way of Rio de Janeiro. They made New York City their home after taking a small apartment in Greenwich Village. During their trip, they had carried with them a number of manuscripts, including Curious George.

Upon arriving in New York, the Reys began submitting their manuscripts to local publishers. Houghton Mifflin quickly picked up publications rights for Curious George, a book about a trouble-prone monkey who wreaks havoc due to his curiosity. The book was followed by six more books in the series over the next 25 years.

"Children can easily identify with George, who despite his good intentions often finds himself neck-deep in trouble. They can similarly admire the Man in the Yellow Hat, who as an ideal parental figure is always there to rescue George and yet never seems to interfere with his having fun. By whatever name George is known, -- 'Zozo' in England, 'Fifi' in France, or 'Peter Pedal' in Denmark -- he apparently has universal appeal to children." [4]

The series has sold more than 20 million copies in 12 languages including Afrikaans, French, German, Japanese, and Norwegian. In addition to the seven original Curious George titles, Margret created 28 other Curious George adventures with Alan J. Shalleck,. She also published five other books including Spotty and Pretzel.

The Reys produced many other books besides those in the curious George series including Elizabite: The Adventures of a Carnivorous Plant in 1942, Pretzel in 1944, and Billy's Picture in 1948.

The Reys became naturalized citizens in 1946.

In 1963, the Reys moved to Cambridge.

H.A. Rey died on August 26, 1977. The couple had been married for 42 years. While they never had children of their own, they touched the lives of so many others. "For someone who never had kids, [they] had a tremendous rapport with them and an uncanny knowledge of what would appeal to them," said Hillel Stavis, who with his wife owns a shop called Curious George Goes to Wordsworth near their Wordsworth bookstore in Harvard Square in Boston. [2]

Margret continued with her career in writing after H.A.'s death. In 1979, she took a position with Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts as a Professor of Creative Writing. She also oversaw a Curious George merchandising program with over 50 licenses for products.

When she turned 90 in 1996, Margret gave $1 million to the Boston Public Library and its branches to improve their Children's Rooms. She also gave $1 million to Beth Israel Hospital for its Center for Alternative Medicine for Research, which studies nontraditional therapies.

"Margret lived to the fullest every minute of her long and productive life and enriched the lives of millions through the Curious George books," said Nader Darehsori, chairman and chief executive of Houghton Mifflin.

Margret died on December 21, 1996 in her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Information for this biography was taken from:
1) Anne Commire (ed.).  Something About the Author, #26; Gale Research Company: Detroit, Mich., 1982.
2) "Curious George Creator Margret E. Rey Dies at 90", South Coast Today; http://www.s-t.com/dailyl/12-96/12-23-96/d03ae091.htm.
3) H.A. Rey and Margret Rey; http://www.eduplace.com/catalog/la/products/c03192.html.
4) "Margret and Hans Augusto Rey Papers", USM de Grummond Collection; http://www.lib.usm.edu/~degrum/findaids/rey.htm.
5) "Margret E. Rey, 1906-1996", The World of Curious George;http://www.curiousgeorge.com/mrey.html.
6) Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast (ed.). St. James Guide to Children's Writers; St. James Press: New York, 1999.

E-CUR Curious George and the Dump Truck (1984) with Alan J. Shalleck -- Curious George gets into trouble when he boards a dump truck and spills a load of sand in the road, but he redeems himself when the sand blocks the getaway of jewel thieves.

E-Curious Curious George and the Pizza (1985) with Alan J. Shalleck -- Curious George creates havoc in a pizza parlor, but he redeems himself by making an unusual delivery.

E-CUR Curious George at the Airport (1987) with Alan J. Shalleck -- Curious George goes to the airport with his friends and manages to get lost.

E-CUR Curious George at the Ballet (1986) with Alan J. Shalleck -- Curious George goes to the ballet, where his curiosity interferes with the performance.

E-CUR Curious George at the Beach (1988) with Alan J. Shalleck -- Curious George's natural agility gives him an unfair advantage when he joins a volleyball team at the beach, but it also helps him rescue a little boy who falls off the pier.

E-CUR Curious George at the Railroad Station (1988) with Alan J. Shalleck -- Switching around the numbers and letters on the arrival/departure board seems harmless to Curious George, but it causes mass mayhem in the train station.

E-CUR Curious George Goes Fishing (1987) with Alan J. Shalleck -- Curious George's interest in helping a fisherman catch more fish ends in disaster, but he is able to redeem himself later.

E-CUR/E-P-CUR Curious George Goes Hiking (1985) with Alan J. Shalleck -- Curious George distresses his companions when he loses the food for the picnic, but he makes them happy again when he finds their way back to civilization.

E-Curious Curious George Goes Sledding (1984) with Alan J. Shalleck -- Curious George goes sledding and saves a child from disaster.

E-CUR Curious George Goes to a Costume Party (1986) with Alan J. Shalleck -- While trying to find a costume for a party, Curious George looks through Aunt Harriet's attic and makes a huge mess.

E-CUR Curious George Goes to a Restaurant (1988) with Alan J. Shalleck -- Chaos results when Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat decide to eat in a restaurant.

E-Curious Curious George Goes to a Toy Store (1990) with Alan J. Shalleck -- During his visit to a new toy store, Curious George demonstrates that monkey business can be good for business.

E-CUR Curious George Goes to an Ice Cream Shop (1989) with Alan J. Shalleck -- Curious George makes a messy mistake while visiting the new ice cream shop, but he redeems himself by attracting customers by making a big sundae in the window.

E-CUR Curious George Goes to the Aquarium (1984) with Alan J. Shalleck -- Curious George jumps in with the seals during his visit to the aquarium and he becomes the star attraction.

E-CUR Curious George Goes to the Circus (1984) with Alan J. Shalleck -- Curious George Becomes the star of the circus when he inadvertently gets in the way of the acrobats' performance.

E-Curious/E-P-CUR Curious George Goes to the Dentist (1989) with Alan J. Shalleck -- Curious George accompanies his friend to the dentist's office and helps alleviate a girls fear of the chair.

E-CUR Curious George Plays Baseball (1986) with Alan J. Shalleck -- Curious George's natural inclination to find out more about everything leads him to interfere with a baseball game.

E-CUR/E-P-CUR Curious George Visits a Police Station (1987) with Alan J. Shalleck -- Curious George creates havoc at the new police station when when he accidentally locks the mayor and the police chief in one of the cells.

E-CUR Curious George Visits the Amusement Park (1988) with Alan J. Shalleck -- The amusement park customers are delighted when Curious George gets into the ticket seller's booth.

E-Curious Curious George Walks the Pets (1986) with Alan J. Shalleck -- Curious George creates chaos when he tries to take all four of his neighbor's pets for a walk, especially since they are a dog, a cat, a goldfish, and a canary.

E-Rey Curious George Flies a Kite (1958) -- A little monkey needs to be rescued when he tries to fly a kite.

KIT-Rey Curious George Goes to the Hospital (1995) -- Curious George must go to the hospital when he swallows a piece from a puzzle.

E-Rey Pretzel (1944) -- Pretzel finds out that being the longest dachshund in all the world is not enough to win the favor of Greta.

Other Curious George Books
E-Rey/E-P-Rey Curious George (1941) by H.A Rey -- The curiosity of a newly captured monkey named Curious George gets him into trouble.

E-Rey Curious George Gets a Medal (1957) by H.A. Rey -- Following a day of misadventures, Curious George becomes the first monkey in space.

E-Rey Curious George Learns the Alphabet (1963) by H.A. Rey -- The Man with the Yellow Hat illustrates the alphabet for his friend, Curious George.

E-Rey Curious George Rides a Bike (1952) -- Curious George goes riding on his bike and comes across some unexpected adventures.

E-Rey Curious George Takes a Job (1947) -- Curious George takes a window washing job and ends up a movie star.

Videos Based on Curious George
J-VID-Doctor Doctor De Soto and Other Stories (1992) -- One of the stories presented on this video is "Curious George Rides a Bike," which tells the tale of how Curious George goes riding on his bike and comes across some unexpected adventures.

"Curious George Creator Margret E. Rey Dies at 90", South Coast Today (http://www.s-t.com/dailyl/12-96/12-23-96/d03ae091.htm) -- This site provides access for the obituary of Margret Rey published on December 23, 1996 in the Standard Times.

H.A. Rey and Margret Rey ( http://www.eduplace.com/catalog/la/products/c03192.html) -- This site provides a very brief biography of H.A. and Margret Rey and provides a number to order a number of Curious George titles in both English and Spanish.

"Margret and Hans Augusto Rey Papers", USM de Grummond Collection (http://www.lib.usm.edu/~degrum/findaids/rey.htm) -- This site provides brief biographies for the couple as well as discussion about their works and a list of the materials the library has as part of its children's authors special collection

The World of Curious George (http://www.curiousgeorge.com/mrey.html) -- This site provides access to a biography of Margret Rey and activities relating to the Curious George books. 

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