MARGRET REY Biography - Writers


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Margret Elizabeth Waldstein was born on May 16, 1906 in Hamburg, Germany.               
Margret was the daughter of Felix Waldstein, a well-known member of the German           
parliament. The large Waldstein home, which accommodated five children, four             
servants, a dog, and her father's numerous political colleagues, was filled with         
In 1919, Hans Augusto (H.A.) Rey, then 21, was mustered out of the German army.         
He wanted to attend art school, but the economic climate of post-World-War-I             
Germany prevented that possibility. He simply could not afford tuition. He               
instead attended both the University of Munich and the University of Hamburg. He         
was majoring in philosophy and natural sciences. At the time, he supported               
himself doing freelance artwork. It was while he was attending school in Hamburg         
in 1923 that H.A. met Margret. He was dating her older sister.                           
In 1924, H.A. accepted a job offer from relatives at their import firm in Rio de         
Janeiro, Brazil. The position included "selling bathtubs up and down the Amazon         
River" [1]. It was a position that he held for 12 years.                                 
In Germany, Margret had started her own studies. She had formal art training at         
the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany in 1927. From 1928 to 1929, Margret took courses         
at the Dusseldorf Academy of Art, and she attended the University of Munich from         
1929 to 1934, during which she held one-woman shows of watercolors in Berlin.           
In 1928, Margret took a position as a reporter and an advertising copywriter in         
Berlin, it was a position that also took her to London and Rio de Janeiro. It           
was while she was in Rio de Janeiro in 1935 that she was reunited with H.A. Rey.         
The two quickly became reacquainted and joined forces to create a small                 
advertising agency. The relationship soon blossomed into love, and they married         
that year. They honeymooned in Europe and settled in Paris, France in 1936.             
The Reys made a new life for themselves in Paris. Margret became a freelance             
writer and H.A. sold illustrations to various French publications. It was also           
in Paris that the couple began producing children's picture books. It all               
started when a French publisher saw a humorous drawing of a giraffe that H.A.           
had made. They asked the Reys to collaborate on a children's book. the result           
was the 1939 book Raffi et les Neuf Singes (Raffi and the Nine Monkeys). One of         
the nine monkeys was the prototype for Curious George. The Reys produced half a         
dozen books during their four year residence in Paris. The books were published         
in France and England.                                                                   
In June 1940, the Reys were forced to flee Paris only hours ahead of the                 
advancing armies of the Third Reich. They fled on their bicycles to southern             
France. The Reys made their way to Lisbon by train and eventually to New York           
City in October by way of Rio de Janeiro. They made New York City their home             
after taking a small apartment in Greenwich Village. During their trip, they had         
carried with them a number of manuscripts, including Curious George.                     
Upon arriving in New York, the Reys began submitting their manuscripts to local         
publishers. Houghton Mifflin quickly picked up publications rights for Curious           
George, a book about a trouble-prone monkey who wreaks havoc due to his                 
curiosity. The book was followed by six more books in the series over the next           
25 years.                                                                               
"Children can easily identify with George, who despite his good intentions often         
finds himself neck-deep in trouble. They can similarly admire the Man in the             
Yellow Hat, who as an ideal parental figure is always there to rescue George and         
yet never seems to interfere with his having fun. By whatever name George is             
known, -- 'Zozo' in England, 'Fifi' in France, or 'Peter Pedal' in Denmark -- he         
apparently has universal appeal to children." [4]                                       
The series has sold more than 20 million copies in 12 languages including               
Afrikaans, French, German, Japanese, and Norwegian. In addition to the seven             
original Curious George titles, Margret created 28 other Curious George                 
adventures with Alan J. Shalleck,. She also published five other books including         
Spotty and Pretzel.                                                                     
The Reys produced many other books besides those in the curious George series           
including Elizabite: The Adventures of a Carnivorous Plant in 1942, Pretzel in           
1944, and Billy's Picture in 1948.                                                       
The Reys became naturalized citizens in 1946.                                           
In 1963, the Reys moved to Cambridge.                                                   
H.A. Rey died on August 26, 1977. The couple had been married for 42 years.             
While they never had children of their own, they touched the lives of so many           
others. "For someone who never had kids, [they] had a tremendous rapport with           
them and an uncanny knowledge of what would appeal to them," said Hillel Stavis,         
who with his wife owns a shop called Curious George Goes to Wordsworth near             
their Wordsworth bookstore in Harvard Square in Boston. [2]                             
Margret continued with her career in writing after H.A.'s death. In 1979, she           
took a position with Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts as a                 
Professor of Creative Writing. She also oversaw a Curious George merchandising           
program with over 50 licenses for products.                                             
When she turned 90 in 1996, Margret gave $1 million to the Boston Public Library         
and its branches to improve their Children's Rooms. She also gave $1 million to         
Beth Israel Hospital for its Center for Alternative Medicine for Research, which         
studies nontraditional therapies.                                                       
"Margret lived to the fullest every minute of her long and productive life and           
enriched the lives of millions through the Curious George books," said Nader             
Darehsori, chairman and chief executive of Houghton Mifflin.                             
Margret died on December 21, 1996 in her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.