Curious George is older than my parents. The beloved monkey, created by H. A. and Margret Rey, is a 70-year-old children’s book superstar. Little kids love formula. There’s nothing more formulaic than the little monkey ignoring orders – because he’s sooooo curious – and getting into a jam only to make a last-minute fix with help from the Man with the Yellow Hat.
An aside: Can’t a man with enough money to travel the world afford another suit?
My daughter went through a Curious George stage. We’d go to the Blue Earth County Library for a morning of reading, and the only books she’d read, the only books she’d check out, were Curious George.
Here’s what I found fascinating. If you find the original Curious George book, the Man with the Yellow Hat captures George in Africa and brings him to a zoo. Modern readers find that disturbing. Not only are there issues around ecosystems, the plotline is eerily reminiscent of Africans being captured and sold into slavery.
Later versions of the books suggest George encountered the Man with the Yellow Hat and followed him to America.
Our sensibilities change, and the books that defined our childhood evolve with them. They’re released again, after an editor inserts of dose of sensitivity. Kids don’t notice. I tried to explain to my daughter why I had concerns about the original book, but she didn’t understand. That part of her brain wasn’t ready to process the complexity of social issues.
So, the new and improved (and parent-approved) Curious George, along side old George, continues to occupy two or three shelves at our local library.
This brings me to a summer festival in Mankato, Minnesota. A big costumed “Curious George” arrived and was immediately swarmed by kids. Hugs. Hand holding. Laughter. More hugs. Curious George was a rock star. Or, should I say, Curious George has evolved into a new kind of rock star.
P.S. The best-kept secret only kids know: The Man with the Yellow Hat does have a name. It’s Ted.
Some cool Curious George links: