Curious George, one of the best known characters in children’s literature, was honored with a birthday celebration at the University of Southern Mississippi last Friday.
The party, which took place on Southern Miss’s Hattiesburg campus, was held on Nov. 12 from 4 to 6 p.m. It was hosted by the university’s de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at The Courtyard across from Cook Library.
The birthday was a celebration both for Curious George and for his creators, writer H. A. and illustrator Margret Rey. Southern Miss’s de Grummond collection is home to several papers of the Reys, famously housing them within 300 boxes.
Guests enjoyed music and refreshments at the celebration, and had the opportunity to take photos with Curious George and the Man in the Yellow Hat. “Still Curious At 80!” also marked the end of de Grummond Collection’s 80-mile walk/run challenge that began on Sept. 1.
The walk/run-a-thon held an award ceremony at the party, honoring the top three individuals and the top team with the most miles. Participants also were able to pick up a specially made challenge t-shirt from the event to mark the accomplishment.
Ellen Ruffin, Associate Professor and Curator of the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, explained that the walk/run-a-thon had multiple reasons behind it.
“This celebration of Curious George’s 80th year of life is one in which we marvel at the relevance George has maintained since his creation,” said Ruffin. “The response to walking 80 miles for George’s 80 years has been far and wide.”
The journey also reflected on the lived experiences of the Rey family. The Reys, a Jewish family, lived in France during the outbreak of World War II. Mere hours before the German army occupied Paris, the Reys managed to escape, and spent several months attempting to get to New York. One of the few possessions they took with them was the initial transcript for Curious George’s debut book.
Ruffin commented on the harrowing journey shortly before the party began.
“If you have read Louise Borden’s ‘The Journey That Saved Curious George’, you will know that there was a narrow escape the Reys made when escaping Paris [during World War II] as the Nazis were marching in,” Ruffin said. “So, we celebrate.”For more information about the Rey papers housed at Southern Miss, contact the de Grummond collection at 601-266-4349. You can also visit their website at www.degrummond.org.