In Hamburg, Germany, Waldstein entered the world on May 16, 1906. As a youth she met her future husband when he was dating her older sister. Artistically inclined, Waldstein refused to allow society to dictate what a woman should and shouldn't do. She learned to be a painter and a photographer at the Dusseldorf Academy of Art and the Bauhaus in Dessau. After exhibiting her watercolors in Berlin, Waldstein left to pursue photography in London and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Life in Germany was too dangerous for her because the Nazis were rounding up Jews and exterminating them.
Finding safety in Brazil, Waldstein worked as a reporter and advertising copywriter. Upon meeting H.A. Rey again, she convinced him to partner with her to found Brazil's first advertising firm. The business partnership turned into a marriage, as the Reys traveled to Paris for their honeymoon. A short stay turned into several years. Rey worked as a free-lance writer while her husband sketched for French magazines. When a book publisher saw H.A.'s animal drawings, he asked if the couple could illustrate and write a children's book. This endeavor helped seal the Reys' future as they created Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys. Though the book wasn't a great success, it did introduce readers to a curious, mischievous monkey named George.
George intrigued his creators, and they decided to follow him on more adventures. However, before the Reys could take the illustrated manuscript to a publisher, the Nazis intended to invade Paris. H.A. built two bicycles that carried the couple and their meager belongings toward the Spanish border. On their way they were stopped by the police who believed them to be spies. After perusing the humorous children's story about a monkey, the police let the Reys go. The couple sold their bikes on the French/Spanish border, bought tickets to Lisbon, traveled back to Brazil and onto New York.
In New York the couple rented an apartment and then began looking for a publisher. Within a month, Houghton Mifflin had accepted four manuscripts for publication, including Curious George. The Reys had found a successful combination of slapstick humor like Charlie Chaplin and comic strip logic. All of their books depicted animals, but Curious George became their most famous monkey. Rey's name wasn't listed on the cover of the early books, but later this was corrected with her receiving full credit for her contributions. On her own, Rey also wrote several books that her husband illustrated.
When H.A. died, Rey became a Professor of Creative Writing at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. She then also agreed to co-edit more Curious George books with Alan Shalleck. This led to a series of short animated films. In her later years, Rey decided to help encourage children's creativity and work to prevent animal cruelty by establishing the Curious George Foundation. She was also in charge of merchandising Curious George worldwide. Before her death she donated one million dollars each to the Boston Public Library and to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. In her will she gave the couple's literary estate to the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi. This generous, talented artist and author passed away on December 21, 1996.
Did you find this review helpful?