After more than 70 years, Curious George is getting a reboot and entering the digital realm. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which publishes stories about the beloved, if often exasperating, monkey, is launching a series of apps and e-books, and a new website geared toward engaging iPad-savvy kiddies.
“It’s a challenge to take something with the word “classic” associated with it and make it relevant to today’s market place,” says Cheryl Toto, the company’s senior vice president of content and product Innovation. “You may not see an iPhone [in the new digital space], but it is a modern world that George lives in.”
Since it’s probably been a while since you read a Curious George book, George is an African monkey who was taken from the jungle to live in the “big city” by the Man with the Yellow Hat. Perhaps as payback for getting snatched from his natural habitat, George becomes a never-ending source of consternation and amusement for his new guardian. He gets into everything. But he also learns a handful of nifty skills, like flying a kite, riding a bike, and learning the alphabet.
Curious George’s 21st-century explorations will inspire him to learn about nothing less than city planning and fiscal responsibility—albeit in ways appropriate for a preschooler. And the apps are designed to tie these lessons to real-world activities. One of the new print books is called Curious George Saves His Pennies. An accompanying app awards coins when children complete tasks and encourages them to save up so they can buy objects—like a roller coaster or dinosaur—that will eventually populate a digital city of the child’s creation.
Even cooler, parents can give their kids extra digital coins in exchange for cleaning their rooms at home or doing other household chores. “Saving and earning isn’t a new concept,” says Toto. “but it’s something that is important in today’s marketplace.”
She’s right. Maybe if George had been hipper to the times a few decades back, we would have avoided the whole recession debacle.