Monday, July 8, 2013

Book Review: Curious George by H. A. Rey and Margret Rey

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun story that shows the dangers of too much curiosity
Cons: Some dated elements; George kidnapped
The Bottom Line
A dated story
But still a fun adventure
For kids of today

Curious About George?

It's amazing the friends you can remember from your picture book days when you start thinking about it.  I was reminded of Curious George recently, and I just had to reread his first adventure.  Fortunately, my library had it in stock.

This book tells the story of a monkey who is abducted from him home in the jungle and taken to the city by The Man with the Yellow Hat.  The Man intends to take George to the zoo.  There's just one problem, George is always curious.

And so it is that he tries to fly while on the ship taking them to the city.  But when they reach the city and he tries to make a phone call, things get really out of control.  Will George's curiosity get him into trouble he can't handle?

The book is a wildly improbably tale that takes the consequences of George's actions to an extreme.  After all, for accidentally calling the fire department, he's taken to jail.  Then again, how he gets out again is genius and fun.  As a kid, I got the message, be careful when you are curious.

There is the potential issue of George being abducted from his home and brought to the city.  It doesn't sit quite as well with me as an adult as it did as a kid, but then again, I have no problems with zoos, so I'm not sure what bothers me.  And I get what was really happening.  We needed some way to get George to a city, an environment that would be familiar to the kids reading the book.  And ultimately, that's what that part of the story is, set up.

In fact, it does take a bit of the story to get us to the city, where George's real adventure starts.  Yet we get to know the kinds of trouble George can get into on the way, so it's definitely not boring.  The entire book moves quickly.

The book is older than I remembered - it came out in 1941.  That helps explain some of the older looking elements to the illustrations.  Still, the pictures are charming and certainly help tell the story.

The age also explains why, at one point, George smokes a pipe.  It is treated as natural, and there are certainly no negative events that come from it.  My how times have changed.

Each two page spread features words on the left and a picture on the right.  A couple of times, the words make references to the picture, using them to advance the story.  Some pages feature more words than others, but it's always a quick read that should hold most kid's attention.

Minor issues aside, Curious George is a fun book that today's kids will love.  It's not quite the classic I remembered, but I still enjoyed it.

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