The Arrival of Curious George
Like all heroes of a good story, it wasn’t apparent from the start that George would be the hugely beloved star that he has become, or even that he would survive to make it into print. Louise Borden tells the story of the Reys’ last minute escape from Paris in 1940, one step ahead of the Nazis, in The Journey That Saved Curious George, which HMH released in a new Young Readers edition in 2010. The Reys and George made it to the United States and the offices of Houghton Mifflin (HM), and the first book appeared in August 1941. This was a good year for Houghton Mifflin children’s books because not only was Curious George published but so was Johhny Tremain by Esther Forbes, Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling, and Calico the Wonder Horse by Virginia Lee Burton.
While all four titles are acknowledged as classics today, some were greeted with greater acclaim than others. As Anita Silvey, the publisher of Houghton Mifflin children’s books from 1995 to 2001, wrote in her introduction to the 60th anniversary Complete Adventures of Curious George, sales were slow to come at first, but come they did and now we can’t imagine raising a child without our favorite curious monkey.
George Turns 25
H.A. Rey died in 1977, so the only milestone birthday of George’s that he was able to participate in was George’s 25th in 1966, which involved a cocktail party held by Houghton Mifflin for 325 librarians and publishing people in New York City on the opening night of the American Library Association’s convention. Unfortunately, no photos of the event survive in the archives; however, I did find the party bill in the files. I’m sure it seemed like a lot of money at the time, but I doubt you could stock a bar for a party with 325 people today for $792.