When I attended St. John’s Grammar School in the Bronx, I had a reputation with the nuns. From year to year as older nuns retired and newer younger nuns came into my school, I always found myself being known to them by name. Now I know what you’re thinking. “Ralph must have been a big troublemaker.” But no, I was a pretty good kid.
The nuns knew me because I developed a reputation of being the kid that always checked out the same book from the school’s library. Every week, I’d walk into the library, return the book and immediately check it out again. This went on for years. The book was “Let’s Find The Constellations” by Hans Augusto Reyersbach or HR Rey as he is known.
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because he is the creator of Curious George. A cartoon that almost wasn’t. Rey smuggled the first Curious George manuscript out of France as he fled just hours before the Nazis invaded.
But his book about the stars is the one that had a profound influence on me. At a young age, I started reading hard science fiction. It wasn’t until years later and after multiple readings that I would begin to understand the themes of books such as Frank Herbert’s Dune, but there was one thing I did understand. There was an “out there” out there. Rey’s book let me see the real universe around us and is likely the root of my love of science to this day.
Tomorrow, New Horizons will make its closest approach to Pluto giving us the best data from the dwarf planet we’ve ever had. I can’t help but think back to that wonderful book and wonder at how far we’ve come in understanding our place in the observable universe.
These are my 300 words for the day. I am Ralph M. Rivera.