Friday, December 04, 2009

Curious George and Company

Last summer as we headed for Maine, we gave our 2 year old granddaughter Ruby a snuggly Curious George as a travel pal because she had been enjoying the mischievous monkey's exploits so much in H. A. Rey's classic books. George has been her constant companion ever since, and I have marveled at what seems to be her comfortable understanding that George is both "real" and not "real." Or perhaps she knows that George is not alive like a person or an animal, but George certainly has a presence in her life that is utterly real and meaningful. Ruby frames her own adventures in George's terms ("Close the gate, Amma") and delights in diapering George alongside her mother as she diapers the very real baby brother Hugo. Recently she set George down on the couch alongside baby Hugo, patted Hugo's tummy and then George's tummy and very seriously proclaimed them babies together to take a nap.

Such is the power of story -- to lend a child's world expanded dimension, concepts on which to hang everyday experiences, characters to inspire conversation, caretaking and curiosity... and of course luscious words to savor and imitate.

The George of books was part of my childhood. He has certainly proven to be an enduring book character through the years! And despite the fact that I tend not to embrace aggressively commercial children's book spinoff products, soft stuffed George has been a wonderful friend to Ruby, a true extension of his literary adventures. This has caused me to think twice about my disdain for related products...

But then, it seems I always return to literary connections. Our library has the wonderful book The Journey That Saved Curious George, by Louise Borden, telling of the wartime escape from Europe of Curious George's creators Margret and H. A. Rey. It provides a neat opportunity for older children and grownups to glimpse the creative lives behind a favorite character. And the estate of the Reys has been involved in creating a family center for art, science and adventure in Waterville Valley NH. You can view details of its programs online. George is alive and well on many levels!