Margret (1906-1996) and H. A. Rey (1898-1977) were Jewish. They were both born in Hamburg, Germany and lived in Paris from 1936-1940. In June 1940, they fled Paris on bicycles carrying drawings for their children’s books, including one about a mischievous monkey named Fifi, hours before the Nazis marched into the city.
They made a narrow escape from Nazi-occupied Europe via a four-month journey across France, Spain, Portugal and Brazil and ended up in New York in the fall of 1940.
Their illustrations of animals for children’s stories saved their lives as officials along the way opened their suitcase and saw the innocent pictures and assumed they were harmless and sent them on their way. So, in a way, Curious George saved his creators, even as they saved him by carrying his stories during their escape.
It’s not surprising that saving the day after a narrow escape became the theme for most of the Curious George stories.
What is surprising to many is that the Reys were able to create such light-hearted characters and capture childhood innocence in such a dark time.
Knowing what they went through helps us to appreciate the miracle and value of their art.
It also sends the message that even though life can be difficult, even dangerous, something good can be produced out of the worst situations.
Reminds me of Romans 8:28
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Also reminds me of Romans 5:3-5
“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
CBN did a story about this fascinating story here.
And the Chrysler Museum of Norfolk, VA has an exhibit that documents their journey. Here’s a link to a description of the exhibit.