Did the Authors of Curious George Escape From the Nazis on Bicycles With a Copy of the Manuscript?

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!
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Was Madeline Really an Orphan?

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: Madeline was an orphan.

Madeline was a series of children’s books created by writer/artist Ludwig Bemelmans in 1939, starring a cute little girl named Madeline who lived in 1930s France.

In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines,
lived twelve little girls in two straight lines
They left the house, at half past nine…
The smallest one was Madeline.

There are many books in the series (here are the first four), and the series continues to this day, now written by Bemelmans’ grandson, John Bemelmans-Marciano.

The books were adapted into a live action film in 1998…

The books have also been adapted to a number of animated programs over the years. I can’t speak to all of the animated series, but I know that the live action film made a major change that I think is likely to be the cause for a notable misconception people have of the Madeline books.
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Was Where the Wild Things Are Originally Where the Wild HORSES Are?

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: Where the Wild Things Are was originally Where the Wild Horses Are.

Maurice Sendak had an interesting journey to international stardom as a children’s author.

As an adolescent, he marveled at the Walt Disney film, Fantasia, and he aspired to become an artist from that point on.

Later on, while he was having some success as an illustrator, he and his brother began producing beautiful wooden toys. They attempted to sell them to FAO Schwartz, but were told that, while beautiful, the toys were a bit too pricey. However, they liked Sendak’s design sense so much that they hired him to decorate their windows. It was while decorating windows at FAO Schwartz in the late 1940s that Sendak was discovered by a children’s book editor (Ursula Nordstrom, who would become a major part of Sendak’s professional life) who saw that his style lent itself beautifully to illustrating children’s book.

For the next decade plus, Sendak became one of the leading children’s book illustrators.

Perhaps his most famous work as an illustrator was on Else Holmelund Minarik’s Little Bear series of books…

However popular he was as an illustrator, Sendak wanted to do his OWN ideas, as well.

So beginning in the mid-1950s, he started to develop some ideas for books written and drawn by himself.

His first idea might surprise you!
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Was Where’s Waldo? Removed From a School Because it Contained an Exposed Female Breast?

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: Where’s Waldo? was removed from a school due to an exposed breast inside the book.

When you take a look at “The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000” (according to the American Library Association), you can certainly understand why most of them are on the list (you don’t have to AGREE, but you at least get why they’re there).

#1 on the list is Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories, which is an especially gruesome collection of scary stories that most parents feel is TOO gruesome for kids.

#2 is Daddy’s Roommate, and, well, we know how up in arms people get about homosexuality.

#3 is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sing, which is Maya Angelou’s rather frank look at her childhood. Certainly some parents feel that she is too graphic describing how she was raped when she was eight years old.

#4 is The Chocolate War, which, similar to, say, South Park, fairly accurately describes how young boys act, and as such, is far too vulgar and profane for many parents.

#5 is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and obviously people are upset over the fact that Mark Twain uses the n-word extensively in the book.

So whether you agree with the complaints over these books, they’re fairly straightforward.

But then you zoom down to #88 on the list and see that it is Where’s Waldo? and a big “Huh?” is elicited.

Where’s Waldo? was born in England in 1987, brainchild of British illustrator Martin Handford.

Handford was known for drawing detailed scenes for his clients, so someone came up with the idea of him doing a whole book of his detailed scenic drawings. In an attempt to give the scenes some sort of visual continuity, Handford and his editors came up with the idea of having a traveler be VISITING each of the scenes in question. And then the idea was developed of making finding said visitor in the extremely detailed scenic drawings be a little challenge/game and thus, the concept of Where’s Wally? began!

And yes, that’s right, originally, in England, the books were called (and are still called that in England) Where’s Wally?

However, it was when the books made the transition to the North American market (and had the name changed to Where’s Waldo? – which is weird, since Wally is a perfectly normal American name) that the book really became a sensation.

In the early 1990s, Waldo exploded on the American scene, with every tie-in you could think of, including a cheapie cartoon series! And, of course, multiple additions to the Waldo book franchise.

However, in 1993, people found a little bit more than just Waldo when they went looking into the book – they found some controversy!
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