Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince
Book review by Daniela Chamorro Mantica
The Little Prince embodies and portrays much of what children's literature is about, making it a kind of meta-story about children, imagination, and fantasy. Saint-Exupery even dedicates the book to "the child from whom this grown-up grew," showing how aware he is of the territory he enters.
The narrator is an airplane pilot whose childlike imagination has been almost entirely squashed by the adults in his life. (They tell him he should give up drawing for math, geography, and history.) This narrator crashes in the middle of the Sahara Desert, where he wakes up to a little prince who asks for a drawing of a sheep.
As the narrator spends the next days fixing his plane, he learns more about the prince and his story.
The prince has come from another planet - probably among the most unlikely aliens to grace the pages of children's literature.
The prince tells the story of his codependent relationship with a rose that he protects, a fox he tames, and the many characters he encounters on his travels to other planets.
The stories of the rose and the fox are particularly significant. The relationship between the prince and his rose is that of love, but it's very dysfunctional - a very mature theme for a children's book. The fox teaches the prince about friendship and taking the time to forge bonds, which open one up to hurt.
The prince's travels also reveal different truths about people, and adults especially.
The adults that the prince encounters on other planets are overly concerned with numbers, jobs, routine, and order. The narrator, who worries about how many days' worth of water he has left as he tries to fix his plane, is one of these grown-ups, worrying about matters of "life and death."
The prince, however, isn't worried about his own apparent "death" - he tells the narrator that he simply "cannot carry this body with [him.]"
Children and adults have different views on life and death - on nearly
everything, we come to realize. From the beginning, Saint-Exupery claims
that children understand more than adults do - children always need to
explain things to adults.
The book also includes drawings done by the book's narrator. Despite the narrator's claims that he's not very good, the drawings of the prince, the planets, the fox, and the rose are beautiful.
Saint-Exupery's language is more poetic and straightforward than most novels of this reading level, partially because of his writing style and partly a result of the translation from the French. He presents his themes very openly through the dialogue and narration, but it never feels forced.
Ultimately, the narrator's life changes because of the prince - he takes up drawing again, though he recognizes that he has grown up. But The Little Prince reminds him (and us) that simply trying to retain something childlike is always worthwhile.
More 20th century bestsellers.
More classic children's books.
Best Children's Books - Find, Read or Write home page.