The many adventures of “Curious George”

“Curious George” with his 2010 Daytime Emmy Award (Photo: PBS)

When publisher and editor Karen Barr learned that PBS KIDS was readying to open the fifth anniversary season of “Curious George,” the 2010 Daytime Emmy winner for outstanding children’s animated program, she asked whether it was something I might like to cover.

I was intrigued, remembering that I’d seen quite a few “Curious George” items last time I strolled through a museum gift shop in Washington, D.C.

Uncertain of where I’d seen them, I jumped online to do a bit of exploring.

Why, I wondered, would stories for children be the stuff of museums?

I discovered that a “Curious George” exhibit at The Jewish Museum in Manhattan recently closed–but still has info online. Turns out there’s a powerful back story to the tale of this adventuresome young monkey.

Lizabeth’s tattered but cherished “Curious George” book

Curious George” left Paris in 1940 as a mere manuscript in the hands of creators Margret and H.A. Rey, both German Jews seeking to avoid Nazi-occupation.

In 1941, the first “Curious George” book was published in the United States by Houghton Mifflin. Lizabeth pulled a later edition off one of her bookshelves when I mentioned I’d be writing about the monkey and his creators.

Knowing the real-life travels of “Curious George,” it’s no surprise that the upcoming season for the televison series will feature “exciting new adventures that encourage preschoolers to explore and engage with the world around them.”

Lizabeth’s prized “Curious George” monkey

“Curious George” will make new friends, including a character named “Marco” who introduces him to “unique elements of Hispanic culture like food, music and celebration.”

The series will “introduce viewers to different cultures and social activities” while continuing its “underlying misson to foster understanding of science, math and engineering.”

To learn more about the recent “Curious George” exhibit, visit The Jewish Museum online–where you’ll also find supporting materials from a 2005 exhibit titled “Wild Things: The Art of Maurice Sendak.”

Another Trimble storytime favorite

The museum notes that Sendak was “born in Brooklyn in 1928 to Eastern European Jewish immigrants” and “grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust, during which many members of his family were lost.”

The Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia features a Maurice Sendak Collection of more than 10,000 objects–which is well worth a visit in person or online.

“Curious George” poster encourages reading

As Americans continue to wrestle with issues of immigration and identity, perhaps these authors and illustrators can help us better understand our past–and forge promising paths to a future we’ll all share.

–Lynn

Note: Thanks to my daughter Jennifer for sharing an article on “Curious George” appearing in a public service announcement about literacy

Coming up: The peril and promise of blogging–as RAK’s “Stage Mom” celebrates 300 consecutive daily posts

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings. 6/13/12

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