Monkey stories have made headlines recently with tales of monkeys disappearing from the zoo and a new Stephen Colbert segment on “Monkey Mysteries.” But left unexamined is the story of “a good little monkey” known by generations of young readers as Curious George.
My youngest grandson is a big fan of the curious little monkey. The struggles faced by the under-age primate – struggles modern society would deem appalling—go unnoticed by the five-year-old and other eager readers.
The story starts innocently enough in Africa with a monkey-nabbing by a friendly man in a big yellow hat. George nearly drowns on the boat ride to the big city. After dinner, he smokes a pipe before going to bed. The next day the little guy is taken into custody after making a phony 911 call. He is taken to a prison but manages to escape through a window by crisscrossing the overhead power lines.
A life-threatening balloon lift ends with George’s rescue by his captor. With George in the back seat, the man speeds off in his blue convertible to the local zoo, George’s new home. George’s fate improves in subsequent books by H.A. and Margret Rey after George leaves the zoo and goes to live with the man who becomes his best friend. The two have many happy adventures.
The original book published in 1941 and the series that followed has been in continuous print since the husband-and-wife team and illustrator Alan J. Shalleck created the popular and curious little monkey. Some monkey stories withstand the test of time, critiques by criminal justice reporters and kids who just want to see a good little monkey have a good time.