Sunday, January 13, 2013
As part of the Seton Hill Writing Popular Fiction program, I have to take three Readings in Genre courses. I am currently taking the course that focuses on picture books and early chapter books. I am required to keep a book journal and thought I would do so on-line. Many of the books we are required to review are older books, classics and such, so these won’t necessarily be reviews of current works. Still, I think this could be fun. My first assignment of the semester was to choose a Curious George book.
I own the entire set of Curious George books, which made it difficult to choose just one book to discuss. I hadn’t read them in a while, so I re-read…. well… all of them. I thought only to re-read one, but once I started, I had to keep going. I think what I love about Curious George is George himself. The pictures of George are so cute that I can almost forgive the series for its origins – the Man in the Yellow Hat’s initial action of stealing a monkey from his native environment with the intention of locking him up in a zoo (sigh.) I find it interesting that these books continue to be so popular when I don’t believe they would find a publisher in today’s world – too politically incorrect, I think.
Of all the books, the one I always think of first is Curious George Rides a Bike. I think, for me, it’s the page where he’s making boats out of newspapers that makes it so memorable. I love the illustrations – the how to of boat-making – the individual illustrations describing each step along the way were fascinating to me. And, of course, as a child, I had to see if it really worked (it did!) H.A. used a similar sequence of pictures in Curious George Takes a Job, to show the effects of the bottle of ether that George opens. The pictures are shown in six panels that resemble a comic strip.
Ultimately, I think that what makes Curious George such a memorable character is the innocent mischief he is constantly up to. None of his actions are malicious. He makes mistakes and everyone forgives him. Everyone always loves George at the end of the books, regardless of how much mischief or damage he has caused. The books deliver over and over again the message that it is okay to make mistakes and that children will still be loved in spite of any mistakes they might make. The simplicity and beauty of that message transcends time and may account for Curious George’s continued popularity, despite his tragic (and politically incorrect) beginnings.