|Anna Grossnickle Hines Home Guide|
Yes, I do illustrate some of the Curious George books, not movie George or TV George, but the ones the publisher calls "classic George", as close as I can make them to the style of George's creator, H.A. Rey. I have been rather quiet about it, partly because it's not my main focus as an illustrator, but even more because it came about as a result of the loss of a very dear friend.
It all began when my daughter, Sarah Hines Stephens, was working as an editorial assistant at what was then Houghton Mifflin Children's Books. Shortly before her death in December 1996, Margret Rey, cocreator of Curious George books along with her late husband H.A., gave permission for Houghton to create new George books.
The first of these stories were written by people in-house, including my daughter, and illustrated by a company called Vipah Interactive. Sarah mentioned to me that they were looking for another illustrator. My friend, Martha Weston, with many, many books to her credit already, had just started illustrating Nate the Great books in the style of Marc Simont. Martha's style was nice and loose. It occurred to me that she could also do Curious George. I introduced Sarah and Martha and they not only worked together, doing seven books in the next few years, they also became great friends.
They often did their "George work" at Sarah's home where Martha enjoyed my grandson Emmett almost as much as I did. We loved sharing Emmett stories. .
Emmett's good friend George was a gift from Martha.
|Some of Martha Weston's Curious George books
Then in September of 2003, Martha died quite suddenly. All of us who knew her were devastated by the loss. Sarah who was by then doing George stories as a free lance writer, said, "Now who will do George with me?" The thought of working with my daughter, doing what I could to fill the hole left by our shared loss, I decided to try. With Sarah's guidance--she knew George so well!--I did some samples, sent them to the editor, and got the job.
Sarah and I had worked together on our BEAN books, and were a good team. Her expertise with George was immensely helpful, and passing ideas back and forth was wonderful as we worked together and remembered Martha.
It was fun to do art so different from anything I had done before and I was surprised at how much I learned from copying Rey's style. He did such simple lines, and then it seemed to me did a very rough wash of gray, a stroke down through the characters and objects, which without careful shading manages to give a lot of depth once the colors are applied.
Our first book was Curious George and the First Day of School. Then I did Curious George and the Firefighters written by another in-house person, with Sarah giving me helpful critiques on the art, while she and her writing partner Jane Mason worked on the manuscript for Curious George Counts to 100. This one was a real challenge. I had a lot of input since I was going to have to figure out how to show the correct number from 1 through 100, of whatever objects were named.
Even though this was very different from the typical Rey story book I wanted to stay as close to his work as possible. I poured over his books and "stole" many of the little toys and creatures that he used, birds, bugs, pull toys, lizards, rabbits, squirrels. So many wonderful things for children to find in his work.
This book took several months of long, long days because the deadline was short. I was quite pleased with the final product though, and after a rest ready to do more George with Sarah.
But there was a change at Houghton and another editor took over George. She had her own writers and sent me finished manuscripts, by various people. They name the authors on the books now as well as the illustrators.
As of May 2016 I have completed the art for 10 "new" Curious George books, as well as the map of George's world for the 75th anniversay edition of the Complete works. Titles not pictured are Curious Geroge Says Thank You, Curious George and the Sleepover, and Curious George Plays Soccer. I enjoy helping keep the spirit of H. A. Rey's original works alive.
PS: Little Emmett is now in high school. Where does the the time go?
|My Curious George books