Hans Augusto Rey

Hans Augusto Rey (born September 16, 1898 – August 26, 1977) was an illustrator and writer, known best for the Curious George series of children's picture books that he and his wife Margret Rey created from 1939 to 1966.[1][2]


Hans Augusto Reyersbach was born in Hamburg, Germany. Hans and Margret were both Jewish and of German birth. They met in Brazil, where Hans was working as a salesman and Margret had gone to escape the rise of Nazism. They married in 1935 and moved to Paris that year.

Curious George

While in Paris, Hans's animal drawings came to the attention of a French publisher, who commissioned him to write a children's book. The result, Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys, is little remembered today, but one of its characters, an adorably impish monkey named Curious George, was such a success that the couple considered writing a book just about him. Their work was interrupted with the outbreak of World War II. As Jews, the Reys decided to flee Paris before the Nazis seized the city. Hans assembled two bicycles, and they fled Paris just a few hours before it fell. Among the meager possessions they brought with them was the illustrated manuscript of Curious George.[3][4]

The Reys' odyssey brought them to Bayonne, France where they were issued life-saving visas signed by Vice-Consul Manuel Vieira Braga (following instructions from Aristides de Sousa Mendes) on June 20, 1940. They crossed the Spanish border, where they bought train tickets to Lisbon. From there they returned to Brazil, where they had met five years earlier, but this time they continued to New York. The Reys escaped Europe carrying the manuscript to the first Curious George book, which they then published in New York by Houghton Mifflin in 1941. Hans and Margret originally planned to use watercolor illustrations, but since they were responsible for the color separation, he changed these to the cartoon-like images that continue to be featured in each of the books. (A collector's edition with the original watercolors has since been released.)[5]

Curious George was an instant success, and the Reys were commissioned to write more adventures of the mischievous monkey and his friend, the Man in the Yellow Hat. They wrote seven stories in all, with Hans mainly doing the illustrations and Margret working mostly on the stories, though they both admitted to sharing the work and cooperating fully in every stage of development. At first, however, Margret's name was left off the cover, ostensibly because there was already a glut of children's fiction written by women. In later editions this was changed, and Margret now receives full credit for her role in developing the stories.

Curious George Takes a Job was named to the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award list in 1960.

The Reys relocated to Cambridge, Massachusetts during 1963, in a house near Harvard Square, and lived there until Hans's death in 1977. A children's bookstore named Curious George & Friends (formerly Curious George Goes to Wordsworth) was founded in the 1990s by friends of the Reys, and operated in the Square until 2011.[6] A new Curious George themed store opened in April, 2012. The Word's Only Curious George Store now stands in the same location as the original.

Star charts

Before the 1952 publication of Rey's The Stars: A New Way to See Them, (ISBN 0-395-24830-2) star charts used a conventional set of diagrams that were difficult to remember and relied on dim stars that are difficult to see in modern populated areas. Rey invented a new set of constellation diagrams that could be seen as cartoonish depictions of the creature or character the constellations was supposed to represent—- or, at least, were memorable. His constellation diagrams were adopted widely and now appear in many astronomy guides, such as Menzel's A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets. As of 2003 The Stars: A New Way to See Them, and a simplified presentation for children called Find the Constellations, are still in print. A new edition of Find the Constellations was released in 2008, updated with modern fonts, the new status of Pluto, and some more current measurements of planetary sizes and orbital radii.[8]

Collected papers

The University of Oregon holds H. A. Rey papers dated 1940 to 1961, dominated by correspondence, primarily between Rey and his American and British publishers.[9]

The de Grummond Children's Literature Collection in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, holds more than 300 boxes of Rey papers dated 1973 to 2002.[10]

Dr. Lena Y. de Grummond, a professor in the field of library science at The University of Southern Mississippi, contacted the Reys in 1966 about USM's new children's literature collection. H. A. and Margret donated a pair of sketches at the time. When Margret Rey died in 1996, her will designated that the entire literary estate of the Reys would be donated to the de Grummond Collection.

Books written by H.A. Rey

Books illustrated by H.A. Rey

  • Zebrology (1937)
  • Don't Frighten the Lion (1942)
  • Katy No-Pocket (1944)

See also


  • New York Times: "How Curious George Escaped the Nazis"
  • [2]
  • Jaeger, Roland: H. A. und Margret Rey; in: Spalek, John M. / Feilchenfeldt, Konrad / Hawrylchak, Sandra H. (ed.): Deutschsprachige Exilliteratur seit 1933, vol. 3, USA, part 2; Bern/München 2000, p. 351−360
  • Jaeger, Roland: Collecting Curious George. Children's Books Illustrated by H. A. Rey; in: Firsts. The Book Collector's Magazine, vol. 8, 1998, no. 12 (Dec.), p. 50-57
  • Jaeger, Roland: Der Schöpfer von "Curious George": Kinderbuch-Illustrator H. A. Rey; in: Aus dem Antiquariat, 1997, No. 10, A543−A551

External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • Margret and H. A. Rey Interactive Timeline: Life in Paris and a Narrow Escape
  • Curious George Saves the Day: The Art of Margret and H.A. Rey, The Jewish Museum (New York), March 14, 2010 - August 1, 2010.

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