by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
translated by Katherine Woods
When I was a teen I loved The Little Prince. It was one of my comfort reads, and I turned its pages many, many times. Now it rests on the shelf of "big-kid books" my daughter is always anxious to peruse, and she chose it for bedtime stories through the past week.
And I'm sorry to say I was disappointed. I don't know if my memories are nostalgically rosy, or I've become more cynical, or it's just not really a suitable book for kids. But I found reading it aloud tedious. The sentences are not smooth, or at least they didn't feel so coming off my tongue. It might be the translation, I'm sure it's more lyrical in the original. The story jumps back and forth with little explanation, and it was quite confusing for my four-year-old. (Reading it in very short segments became easier, because she would forget what came before and not expect it to follow a linear time-line). It begins with the author (who is a pilot) describing how as a child he made drawings which grown-ups could not understand, then jumps to an incident when as an adult he crashed his airplane in the desert and met a child wandering there alone. This little boy he called "the Little Prince," and their first meeting is a conversation about a drawing of a sheep the Little Prince wants. The author tries to find out what the Little Prince is doing in the desert, where he came from, why he wants a sheep, etc. but he never gets a straight answer and has to piece it all together, slowly.
It turns out the Little Prince is a visitor from a star, a little planet far away. Rebuked by a vain, proud rose he cares for (yes, the flower talks) he runs away to visit other planets. He meets grown-ups obsessed with singular occupations whose purpose make little sense to the Little Prince. He applies a child's logic and perspective to everything and shows the reader how foolish grown-up concerns can be. He learns some wisdom about friendship from a fox, and teaches the pilot his pearls of wisdom. The shining message I glean from The Little Prince is about the importance of friendship, about the value of things you love. My favorite quote from the book sums it up very well: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
Rating: 3/5 ........ 92 pages, 1943
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