Happy Hanukkah, Curious George (and Christmas and Ramadan)

Book Reviewed:  Happy Hanukkah, Curious George – Emily Flaschner Meyer and Mary O’Keefe Young, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012

Can you remember the world before board books?  Reading to the youngest children, even babies, involved the possibility that they would tear the pages and teethe on bound or paperback volumes supposedly geared for their age.  Now many classics are available in board book format for toddlers. (This will be the subject of a future blog entry.)

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It is almost the end of Hanukkah and a week before Christmas. Ramadan will arrive in the spring of 2018. Curious George, the irrepressible and non-verbal symbol of innocent childhood rule bending, celebrates all three holidays.

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Not only that, but the books are “tabbed” board books, the right side of the volume featuring a visual and tactile table of contents.  In Happy Hanukkah, Curious George,  a child can flip to the pages featuring a dreidel (spinning top), latke (potato pancake), menorah, chocolate gelt (coins), or a banana tied with a gift ribbon (O.K., he is a monkey).  The illustrations are based on the style of the original, if inimitable, H.A. Rey.  Each “chapter” is in the form of a simple poem about Hanukkah, emphasizing both fun and good deeds:

“One special part of Hanukkah:
The mitzvah, or good deed,
To help out friends and neighbors,
Or anyone in need.”

Granted that the verse is not at the level of A.A. Milne or Jack Prelutsky. It doesn’t pretend to be. Rather, the text serves as captions for endearing pictures of George, who chops onions with tears in his eyes and walks past a brownstone with a menorah in the window while holding hands with the Man in the Yellow Hat.

To learn more about the Jewish roots of Curious George, read the fascinating account of his creators’ escape from Nazi Germany in The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey by Louise Borden and Allan Drummond.

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A recently released film by Ema Yamazaki, Monkey Business: The Adventures of Curious George’s Creators uses an innovative combination of live footage, interviews, and terrific animation to tell the story of the author and illustrator who brought George into the world.  Read an interview with Ms. Yamazaki here.

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