Life has a funny way of gently nudging us in different directions…
When I was a junior in college, Margret Rey was appointed as a professor of creative writing at Brandeis University. I knew she was the creator of the classic Curious George books and thought it would be fascinating to meet her.
As an English major who was devoted to Creative Writing, I earned the honor of being chosen for an independent study with her. That meant that every week, the three of us – Margret, her dog and I – would tuck ourselves away in her office for a wonderful hour discussing and dissecting children’s books. I had no particular interest in children’s books at that time, other than being a voracious reader as a child, starting back in elementary school. But there was something about this petite, grey-haired 73-year-old woman that captivated me.
She began her collaboration with H.A.Rey, her husband, back in 1935 in Paris. In 1940, the Reys fled Paris before the invasion of the Nazi army. (Check out the wonderful book The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey by Louise Borden).
They traveled through Spain, Portugal and Brazil before landing in New York City with the illustrated manuscript of the new book they had written. Curious George was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1941. Margret wrote the stories, and her husband drew the illustrations. They never had children of their own, and yet, they produced seven books about the curious little monkey as well as others – books that have graced our libraries and bookshelves for generations.
Fast-forward to 1985 – my best friend Betsy and her mom (author Natalie Bober – more about her in future blog) were opening a children’s only bookstore in Westchester, NY. I was working in an advertising agency in NYC at the time and helping them with publicity and public relations in anticipation of the store’s grand opening. It was then that Betsy asked me to join as a partner in ONCE UPON A TIME bookstore…and I have been involved in different aspects of children’s books ever since! I can’t help but think that there was a plan laid out for me way back in that cozy little office with that special little woman…
These photos are from the Curious George Day at my store 20
years ago! And, yes, that is me dressed as the man in the yellow hat! Enjoy.