Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to children’s literature and whether they are true or false.
CHILDREN’S LITERATURE URBAN LEGEND: The authors behind Curious George built bicycles to escape from the Nazis, along with a copy of their original manuscript for Curious George.
In 1941, husband and wife team Margret and Hans Reyersbach (he shortened his name to Rey for his nom de plume, going by H.A. Rey) released their children’s book, Curious George.
The book was an instant success and has never been out of print since it first came out. However, the road that the Reys took to getting their book published was simply amazing, as they actually managed to escape Paris right ahead of the Nazis on bicycles literally built for two!
Margret Waldstein moved to Brazil in 1935 to get out of her German hometown of Hamburg and the Nazis who had taken control of Germany (it was no longer safe for a Jewish woman to remain in the country). While there, she met up with another Jewish expatriate from Hamburg, Hans Reyersbach (she went to Brazil with the intent of meeting Hans, by the way, who had gone there first). They married and moved to Paris, where they released their first children’s book in 1939. The book was about a giraffe named Cecily who met up with nine monkeys. One of the monkeys was named Curious George…
The book wasn’t much of a success, but the Reys felt that they could do something with the George character (by the way, you might notice that only Hans was credited – that was a calculated thing because women authors were so comon at the time in children’s literature, that they thought that they would stand out more being done by just a man).
However, by the time that they decided to begin work on this new book, their world was thrown into turmoil by a little thing called World War II. With the Nazis fast approaching Paris, Hans and Margret had to get out of Dodge. The problem is, of course, that a lot of people were trying to get out of town, as well. Hans’ solution was to hand-build two bicycles. They only had room on the bikes for a few belongings, but one of those belongings was the manuscript for Curious George!
They literally escape just hours ahead of the Nazis arriving in Paris.
They rode to the Spanish border where they then bought train tickets to get to Portugal, and then traveled back to Brazil. They eventually moved up to New York and published their extremely successful book.
Amusingly enough, in 1952, they released a Curious George book about George…riding a bike.
The legend is…
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