Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Just a quick note on perseverance in life and children's book publishing.

Most of us know the story of Hans August and Margret Rey, but in case you do not, here is the cliff note version from Wikipedia. It does not include many of the hardships that I am sure these folks endured. I thought of them because I have been reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.(yes, you must read it)
Hans Augusto Reyersbach was born in Hamburg, Germany, as was his wife Margret. Hans and Margret's fathers were German Jews; Margret's mother was not. The couple first met in Hamburg at Margret's sister's 16th birthday party. They met again in Brazil, where Hans was working as a salesman of bathtubs and Margret had gone to escape the rise of Nazism Germany. They married in 1935 and moved to Paris in August of that year.
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, 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. The outbreak of World War II interrupted their work. 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.
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.