Allison's Book Bag

Curious George and Friends by H.A. and Margret Rey

Posted on: December 9, 2012

After rereading Curious George and Friends by Margret and H.A. Rey, I babbled on about them to my husband. My excitement surprised me because I hadn’t expected to feel so impressed by this collection of eight fanciful animal stories. I had randomly picked up the collection while browsing my picture books to find examples that I could use to study plot. I’m glad I did because it provided me with an afternoon of amazing fun. Oh, and yes, I also gained new insights into the structure of stories.

Let me start with a quick rundown of the stories found in Curious George and Friends. First up is an action-packed story about a curious monkey named George, who by my childhood had become a household name. Then there’s the sweet story about Cecily who makes friends with homeless monkeys. Next there’s a harrowing tale about a carnivorous plant aptly named Elizabite. No topic is too mature, and so there’s a story about a dog named Pretzel who falls in love with a dog named Greta. She doesn’t love him back, but Pretzel keeps trying to court Greta and prove his love. No topic is too simple either, and so there’s a story about a kangaroo who’s missing a pocket, which is the probably the last thing a kangaroo should be without. The last three tales are my least favorite, but still deserve mention. Spotty is about a rabbit who doesn’t fit with his family because he has spots while his family is pure white. He meets another rabbit who doesn’t fit with his family because he is solid white while his family are spotted. The story is overly moralistic, which is why I don’t care for it. Billy’s Picture is also about a rabbit, this time about one who wants to draw. When he tries to draw a picture, everyone keeps interrupting to add their own touches, and so no one is happy with the final result. Last, the seemingly never-ending story of Whiteblack the Penguin is about the Chief Storyteller of Penguinland who has sadly run out of tales and so goes on vacation to find new ones.

"The Man with The Yellow Hat" and Cu...

“The Man with The Yellow Hat” and Curious George, the pet monkey, are enduring characters.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With these summaries out of the way, let me switch to how the stories will entertain you. Like all good yarns, I rarely knew what would happen next. For example, I didn’t know that on the boat from Africa to the United States, George would try to fly like the seagulls and so almost drown. In most of the stories, there was always a twist around the corner that I hadn’t seen coming but which made perfect sense. For example, I didn’t know that Katy the Kangaroo would decide to ask the other mother animals how they carried their babies in an attempt to solve her problem of not having a pocket. I love that through her we learn about all the different ways that mother animals cart about their babies. Most of all, I love Katy’s final solution! Indeed, many of the twists and turns were so imaginative that it’s hard to believe adults wrote these stories. For example, when Cecily the Giraffe meets homeless monkeys, I never would have guessed how many ways she could stretch her body to play with them. In listing ways that this collection of eight stories will entertain you, I shouldn’t neglect to mention the characters. An evening with a botanist wouldn’t have inspired me to write a tale about a carnivorous plant. Not would have I created such a humorous character out of a plant who bites dog’s tails and maid’s backsides. The Reys made me laugh many times. In compiling my list, I must include the settings. In Whiteblack the Penguin, he sails the ocean, gets rescued by a cruiser, is shot from a cannon onto a foreign country that is inhabited by ostriches, and takes a camel ride across a desert. That’s a lot of unusual places for him to visit, but they also make wacky stories for him to share back home and for us to read.

As for what I learned about plot through the Reys, I learned that one can let one’s imagination run wild as long as each new event proceeds logically from the other. Stories can also be about things as minor as wanting to draw a picture but facing continual interruptions. And a sense of silliness helps, because then one can have giraffes playing with monkeys, kangaroos crying about missing pockets, and penguins asking camels for a ride home. Thanks to the Reys, I might just have an inkling how to write about those two geese that I saw waddling towards our local office store.

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Summer Reviews

Books can take connect us with strangers, take us to unique places, and introduce us to new ideas. They can also offer hope in a chaotic world. And so I must share what I read!

Each week, I’ll introduce you to religious books, Advanced Reader Copies, animal books, or diversity books. Some I’ll review as singles and others as part of round-ups. Just ahead, there will be reviews of:

  • Joni: The unforgettable story of a young woman’s struggle against quadriplegia & depression by Joni Eareckson
  • The True Story of the World’s Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary by Samantha Glen
  • Brothers in hope : the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan–refugees by Mary Williams
  • The Inner Life of Cats by Thomas McNamee

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