It’s summer, a time when tots get lazy and parents get busy, thinking of ways to keep them entertained. To assist moms and dads with this mentally draining annual task, two museums in Hartford and Springfield have recruited celebrities who are beloved all over the world: Curious George and Clifford the Big Red Dog.
Curious George, the inquisitive little monkey from the children’s book series by Margret and H.A. Rey, is the star of a play area at Connecticut Science Center in Hartford.
The Reys published seven Curious George books between 1941 and 1966: “Curious George,” “Curious George Takes a Job,” “Curious George Rides a Bike,” “Curious George Gets a Medal,” “Curious George Flies a Kite,” “Curious George Learns the Alphabet “ and “Curious George Goes to the Hospital.”
The exhibit takes scenes from those books, and from the PBS TV series, including characters such as The Man in the Yellow Hat, Chef Pisghetti, Betsy and Steve, his animal friends Hundley, Charkey and Gnocchi, and of course the monkeylicious star.
Eight play stations include an apartment building, where George can be moved with pulleys from window to window, like he did in “Curious George Takes a Job”; a sidewalk produce stand, where kids can learn shapes, sorting, counting and weighing; a construction site, where a machine can be used to move blocks to an area where kids can build things; a city park, where George sits on a bench and toddlers can play inside; a three-hole miniature golf course; a rocket, like in “Curious George Gets a Medal,” where families can take selfies; a farm with windmills to turn; and an interactive craft area.
One element will interest adults: a faux “office” telling how the Reys, who were German Jews, fled Paris with the “Curious George” manuscript hidden in their bags. They settled in New York and began publishing the books. Other pop-culture monkeys are seen: Barrel of Monkeys, salt and pepper shakers and sock monkeys, which were slapped into obscurity when the little Parisian refugee came to town.
This bay also features various pieces of “Curious George” merchandise, including a board game, plush toys, a jack-in-the-box, dishes, a lunchbox, crayons, an umbrella, an LP, a watercolor set. In the “office,” there is also an antique that tots can play with, if they can figure out what it is: a rotary-dial phone.
CURIOUS GEORGE: LET’S GET CURIOUS is at Connecticut Science Center, 250 Columbus Blvd. in Hartford, until Sept. 9. On weekends from June 16 to Aug. 26, a costumed Curious George character will greet guests from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Hartford residents are admitted to the museum free the whole month of June. Admission and more information at ctsciencecenter.org.
Clifford The Big Red Dog
George got into mischief because he was curious. Clifford got into mischief because he was just so big. Clifford the Big Red Dog, the star of 80 books published by Norman Bridwell from 1963 until 2015, is as big and as red as kids imagined he would be, in an exhibit at Springfield Museums in Massachusetts.
To see the Clifford show, families must walk past the Dr. Seuss Sculpture Garden and Amazing World of Dr. Seuss museum. It is in the complex’s science museum, near a model T-rex and pteradon. If families get past these tantalizing distractions to the Clifford show, kids will be delighted with the interactive fun, similar to the Curious George show but, well, different, because that was George and this is Clifford.
The exhibit takes kids to Clifford’s hometown on Birdwell Island, where he lives with Emily Elizabeth and plays with her friends. By playing at the Birdwell post office, a treasure chest, a climbing tube, a gardener’s shed, a snack bar, a ferry, a dog house, kids can learn lessons on working together, letter writing, helping others, sharing, being nice and being responsible.
ADVENTURES WITH CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG is at Springfield Museums, 21 Edwards St. in Springfield until Sept. 9. On Thursdays and Fridays from July 10 to Aug. 17, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., a costumed Clifford will greet guests. Admission and information at springfieldmuseums.org.