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Curious George Saves the Day

by Joseph Ramelo

“Now they were right in the center of town. There was so much to see that George did not know where to look first.” (from Curious George Takes A Job)

This weekend, the starving student and Bank of America customer that I am paid a visit to the Contemporary Jewish Museum for its “Curious George Saves the Day” exhibit, which runs through March 13. Through the Museums On Us program, on certain weekends you can get into certain museums for free, and this past weekend I decided that my free museum visit would be to the CJM.

I was excited the first time, last month, that I saw the streetlight banner ads for this exhibit waving throughout downtown San Francisco. In addition to the fact that the Curious George books were among my favorites (I can distinctly remember first coming across them in the library of my elementary school when I was in the first grade), Margaret and H.A. Rey are key literary figures. In the literary community, children’s books authors don’t always get the kind of recognition that their mainstream peers do, unless they are staples such as Lewis Carroll and Laura Ingalls Wilder. (In fact, the work of both Wilder and the Reys are nearly contemporaneous.) Also complicating matters is when the authors are also the illustrators. Are the authors staples of literature or art? The Reys took as much care with their drawings as they did with their prose. For example, Margaret had once explained the challenge of writing for children: that she had a very limited vocabulary to choose from because the target audience wasn’t yet accustomed to using a wide variety of verbs and adjectives. Personally, I would conclude that the Reys are key literary figures, if not heroes, for mastering this unique narrative structure. Continue reading