I recently found this book Cecily G. and the 9 Monkeys and was thrilled to learn that this was the first children's book written by Margret and Hans Rey, the creators of the lovable Curious George. I was then surprised to learn this book is where Curious George was first imagined! The history of the Rey's lives and how Curious George came to be is heartwarming.
Margarete and Hans Augusto Reyersbach were both born in Hamburg Germany. As children they would visit the Hagenbeck Zoo. Both became writers and artist who eventually traveled the world together. When ever they were in a new city they would always make a point of visiting the local zoo where they would draw and take photographs of the animals. When they lived in Brazil they were surrounded by all types of monkeys, and even had two tiny ones as pets!
After their marriage in 1936 they moved to Paris, France where they could earn a living in the arts. One day Hans drew a sweet cartoon giraffe and later it was published in a magazine. This giraffe became the inspiration for their very first children's book. They named her Rafi and included a cast of monkeys: Madame Pamplemoose, Zozo, Sirocco, Zig Zag, Cactus, Carabaa, Carabee, Caraboo, and Fifi. The book was first published in 1939 France under the name Rafi et les 9 Singes.
Soon after, WWII erupted and the Reys fled Paris. Both were German-born Jews and their lives were in danger. They safely made it to New York in October 1940. They met with an American editor and signed a contract for 4 books, including one starring the monkey Fifi, who became Curious George.
The story is lovely and humorous, as are the illustrations. Cecily Giraffe was feeling lonely because all of her friends and family were taken to a zoo, when along comes a family of monkeys who were also saddened because their forest was cut down. "One of the monkeys was called Curious George. He was a clever monkey. He said, 'We must pack up at once and go on a journey to find a new home.'"
Their journey includes meeting Cecliy,
sleeping at her house in her extra long giraffe bed,
riding her like a see-saw, skiing down her long neck, and parachuting off her head.
They have so much fun together they decide to give a concert to celebrate where
George plays on the harp and they all sing and danced merrily.
In the end, Cecily G. asks, "Would you like to stay with me always?" and they do (until George meets the man with the yellow hat, that is!)