This delightful book relates the harrowing escape of authors Margret and H.A. Rey (of Curious George fame) as they journey through occupied Paris in 1940 and eventually make it to New York. Both Hans Reyersback and Margarete Waldstein grew up in Hamburg in the early 20th century and separately found their way to Rio de Janeiro, where they married and began a life together as artists. On a visit back to Europe, they fell in love with Paris and decided to stay. As Hans was working on the manuscript about a curious little monkey called “The Adventures of Fifi,” war began and eventually the artists found themselves, as German-born Jews, desperately needing to flee. Author Louise Borden does a terrific job of explaining the historical context to young readers. She conveys the excitement and adventure of the Reys’ desperate bicycle ride through the French countryside by often referring to the small diary that Hans kept with him at that time. The illustrator, Allan Drummond, has imitated the charming style of H.A. Rey, and this adds to the delight of the book. Also included are numerous photographs, diary entries and original Rey drawings, and other interesting additions that enhance the story. This book brings to life a fascinating time in history that most young children today do not understand. It is also a nonthreatening way to introduce the concept of Jews needing to flee before the Holocaust. It will prove popular for anyone of any age who loves well-designed picture books and, especially, the excellent work of Margaret and H.A. Rey. Recommended for ages 8 – 12.
Lisa Silverman is director of Sinai Temple’s Blumenthal Library in Los Angeles and a former day school librarian. She is the former children’s book review editor of Jewish Book World.