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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Happy Birthday, Margret Rey!

Margret Rey and H.A. Rey

Curious George was one of my favorite literary characters with whom, as a child, I could relate.  Inquisitive by nature, mischievous, and always up for an adventure, Curious George has continued to be a classic for new generations of young readers.  Margret Rey was a full collaborator for these wonderful stories with H.A. Rey, but was originally left out of the credits due to an already overflowing field of children’s books authored by women.  Here are some facts about Margret:

v  Margret Elizabeth Waldstein, born May 16, 1906 in Hamburg, Germany, had an artistic education as a young woman attending Bauhaus in 1927 and Dusseldorf Academy of Art from 1928 to 1929.  She was a professional photographer in London, Berlin, and later Rio de Janeiro where she became reacquainted with Hans Augusto Reyersbach, or H.A. Rey. 

v  Supposedly, H.A. Rey was dating her older sister in the early 1920’s and first met her at a party at her parents’ house.  A catalog that we have here at the MLC mentions he first saw her at this party sliding down the banister!

v  While in Rio de Janeiro, Margret convinced H.A. Rey to leave his job at an import-export firm to start an advertising agency.  They were successful as the first advertising agency in that area!

v  A short honeymoon to Paris eventually became their home for four years.  H.A. Rey worked on illustrations while Margret wrote the stories for their first books.  They continued to collaborate on their stories throughout their lives together.

H.A. Rey and Margret Rey

v  The couple fled Paris, with their children’s stories, in June 1940, just hours before the Nazis entered Paris’s borders.  They finally settled in New York in October 1940, and their first book starring Curious George (originally named Fifi in France) was published in 1941 by Houghton Mifflin.

v  Pretzel, published by Harper in 1944, was the first book in which Margret’s name appeared as author.

v  Among many of her creative skills, Margret also designed functional and decorative pottery in the 1960s and 1970s, and stitched many a design through needlepoint.

v  Margret Rey continued the legacy after her husband H.A. Rey died August 26, 1977, collaborating with Alan Shalleck.  She also taught creative writing at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.

v  The de Grummond Collection at The University of Southern Mississippi was founded in 1966 and the Reys were among the first to be asked for contributions to the collection.  More and more materials were sent over the years by the Reys and eventually the entire literary estate was given to the de Grummond Collection following the death of Margret.

v  Margret Rey died at the age of 90 on December 21, 1996.

If you, like myself, remember the stories and lively drawings of Curious George then you may be interested in viewing the current exhibition, lent by the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, at the Mississippi Museum of Art!  I haven’t seen it yet, but I have plans to see it before it leaves!  Who’s coming with me?

“Curious George Saves the Day—And His Creators.” USA Today Magazine 140.2799 (2011): 16. Academic Search Premier. Web. 16 May 2012.
Jones, Dee.  Curious George Comes to Hattiesburg: The Life and Work of H.A. and Margret Rey.  Hattiesburg, MS: Hattiesburg Arts Council and The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation , 1999. Print.
"Margret Rey 1906-1996." Publishers Weekly 27 Jan. 1997: 33. Literary Reference Center. Web. 16 May 2012.

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