Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Journey that Saved Curious George

While reviewing my history book list I realized it was time to expand my listings and explore more topics. I've always had an interest in World War II but it can be a complicated topic to address with children. The information can be hard to absorb. While searching for some age appropriate books on the subject I came across Louise Borden's The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Reyand thought it presented an interesting connection. Many children are already familiar with the character of Curious George. This book introduces them to the invasion of Paris during World War II and gently hints at the dangers that presented to those who were Jewish at the time, thus the need for the Rey's to flee.

In historical picture books I'm always looking for a balance of age appropriate material with accuracy. This book added another element in that on top of it being a historical event, it is also a biographical account of the Rey's life. This adds even more of a challenge for someone writing a picture book. It is quite a bit of information to disseminate in a picture book format. I think the author did a great job in providing that balance.

The book begins with the author discussing her own interest in tracking down the stories she'd heard over the years of the Rey's having to flee Paris on a bicycles to avoid the German invasion of France. However, she was frustrated because she couldn't find any details of the event. She set out to research and document as much of that experience as she could against a well set stage of historical events. The book places the reader at the scene following the Rey's on their journey presenting the urgency and danger without the horror that younger children might not be able to process. It is a good introduction that lays the foundation for information they will encounter later. It doesn't ignore the realities, but it accepts that younger readers are only going to be able to process so much of what happened. When they are older there are other books that can take them deeper into the story of what was happening in France and across Europe. This introduces them to the reality that many were trying to flee and only few were able to leave. The Rey's were some of the fortunate few who escaped.

I was a fan of Curious George as a child, but never had heard the escape journey of the Rey's. It adds an interesting depth to the Curious George stories. The book also discusses the evolution of George who began life as Fifi before becoming Americanized to George after the Rey's escaped with the manuscript during their flight from Paris.

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