I am reaching out to you today to confirm for those of you who know, and to inform those of you who have not yet heard, that The Curious George Store is closed. But do not despair; this is far from over! I’ve closed the store, but my vision hasn’t changed. My passion hasn’t changed. I haven’t changed. I’m still learning, growing, evolving – just as Curious George does. Every adventure contains a lesson and involves community: friends and family that individually and collectively love and look after George when he needs help.
As a child, reading the Curious George books, I took great comfort in knowing that The Man in the Yellow Hat would always be there to support George and help him to find a path forward through the complicated troubles he found himself in. The Man in the Yellow Hat is George’s most cherished person, and George knows he is always safe and loved when he’s with him. This is a time when we all need a Man in the Yellow Hat. We all feel unsafe, a little (or a lot) lost, afraid, lonely. And like George, I find my Man in the Yellow Hat in my community of cherished friends who are supporting me as we transition and discover ways to better serve our community going forward.
I remember the first time I (re)read the original Curious George story as an adult. Reading it to my son, Jose, I was struck – offended – by the beginning of the story: The Man in the Yellow Hat goes to Africa, puts a sack over a little brown monkey, and loads him onto a ship with plans to put him behind bars in a zoo. You can see where I’m going – the disappointment went straight to my core: my beloved Curious George books were built on racism!
It wasn’t until I learned the story of H.A. and Margaret Rey, author and illustrator of the original Curious George stories, that I could understand and see things differently. The Reys, like George, were forced from the home that they loved. In 1940, the Nazi front left them no choice but to leave the continent aboard a ship. They eventually found their way to the U.S. and into a safe and accepting community in Cambridge, MA. They, like George, went from a place where they very much belonged to feeling lost, adrift, and displaced until they landed in a community that took them in and acted as their Man in the Yellow Hat – providing acceptance, connection, and belonging.
As I learned the history behind Curious George, it completely changed how I felt about the beginning of the story. In fact, I was ashamed that I leapt to that conclusion and judgement without looking for the WHY. When I allowed myself to open to other possibilities, other reasons for that beginning, I learned a great deal. For me, understanding the Reys’ history gave me compassion and illustrated the adage “you can’t judge a book by its cover (or in this instance, beginning)”. I’m a better, more evolved person because of that learning and understanding.
I write all this because it illustrates what I believe we all need now: community – a place where we belong and can find the acceptance, security, and connection that The Man in the Yellow Hat gives to George. We need a place where we can be curious and adventurous – where we all learn and evolve. My vision for the store has always centered around learning, connection, community, and belonging. And so, while the store is no longer, there’s no reason to stop believing in vision, in the future. For those of you out there who believe in this vision too, I’m calling on you to act as The Man in the Yellow Hat for The Curious George Store, on this new journey. Together, we can shape and mold something stronger, more evolved. Together, our community – the Curious George Community – can find ways to include and better serve all communities.
To that end, I’d like to introduce you to Curious George & Co. I am beginning to post content for all of us to consider, weigh in on, and put our community voice forward. The content is for kids and adults: blogs, questions, interviews, plus activities and games for kids. I am calling out to our community to come together, learn, accept, evolve, support, and open to new possibilities. Let’s rely on and learn from each other so we can be Curious compassionate ambassadors; taking the acceptance, possibilities, lessons, security, and belonging with us into our expanded worlds, like a ripple that extends into the entire ocean. I’m pretty curious to see what our ripples can shift and create – what we as a community can do, and where we can go. Aren’t you?