I had an entirely different Library Monday planned for today, but when I picked up the book that I was planning to share, I realized that I had unconsciously chosen a book of poems about summer. On some level, I think this is probably bad for morale, being that I live in Vermont and it is only January. We really must not get ahead of ourselves. Trust me. So, I'll save that one for later, and tell you a bit about a special museum visit that Mariam and I made last week instead.
While on our whirlwind San Francisco tour of family and food, Mariam and I managed to drag Dan's mom along on a trip to the Contemporary Jewish Museum to see their current exhibit, "Curious George Saves the Day." It is a relatively small collection, but contains absolute treasures that are more than worth the trip if you are anywhere near the Bay Area. Original illustrations, on-the-fly sketches and letters from publishers are all included, and the combined effect of these documents is a wonderful sense of how Curious George came to be. A large part of the exhibit also centers on explaining how H.A. and Margret Rey, the husband and wife team behind George, escaped from Nazi Europe by bicycle and sea. As both a history nerd and a children's literature obsessed parent of a small child, it was pretty much a perfect combination as far as I'm concerned.
The brains behind the exhibit have done a fantastic job of balancing the interests of young and mature audiences alike. The ephemera and art work on display are organized chronologically, along with an interesting narrative that guides visitors through the exhibit and really illustrates how a cultural icon like Curious George came to be. Kids, who are less likely to be interested in the historical context of their favorite monkey's origination, are given an alternative guide to the exhibit; an art pack that can be checked out from the front desk which contains a journal, a scavenger hunt for the exhibit and an envelope with an activity to take home. Kind of brilliant.
One thing that I often forget is how many books the Reys wrote about characters other than Curious George. Like the George books, the rest of the Rey's writings are quirky, sweet, and have the same earnest tone that children so enjoy. We don't have many of them, so I picked up a copy of Spotty, a book that I hadn't seen before, at the museum store.
Oh! Speaking of good finds; I came across another copy of Summerland at the library sale this afternoon and couldn't resist. If you'd like it, leave a comment on this post. In the event that more than one person is interested, I'll draw a name out of one of Mariam's mittens or something.