Curious George has been entertaining children for three generations, but now he’ll do more than entertain as part of a new exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum& Education Center in Skokie. The exhibit tells the journey of the little brown monkey’s creators, Margret and H.A. Rey, as they escaped the Nazi invasion at the start of World War II.
When the Jewish authors fled Paris on bikes toward Spain to escape the Nazis, the Curious George manuscript and illustrations were among the few possessions they could carry with them. Escaping via Spain and Portugal, then across the Atlantic to Brazil, the Reys reached the United States in October 1940. A month later, they signed a contract with Houghton Mifflin for the book.
“Most people don’t know that one of the most common picture book classics that they are used to reading is connected to World War II and the Holocaust,” says Noreen Brand, director of education for the museum. “This exhibit looks at the fact that we have two individuals who took their belongings and put them into their knapsacks on their bikes, and this is what they chose to save.”
The exhibit is based on the book written about the Reys, The Journey That Saved Curious George, by Louise Borden and illustrated by Allan Drummond and features 27 framed art prints chronicling the journey.
While the artwork itself probably won’t interest young children, there will be a reading area in the exhibit where they can enjoy all the Curious George books, as well as others by Borden, Brand says. Family activities are planned for the exhibit and the museum has other, interactive areas that will also appeal to children.
The exhibit is included in the price of admission.