Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Le petit prince (The Little Prince)
This may be the only children’s book reviewed on this site. However, there are several good reasons for doing so. Firstly, it is by Saint-Exupéry. Secondly, it has the best theme of children’s literature, namely that adults cannot/won’t see/understand what children see/understand. Thirdly, it has Saint-Exupéry’s wonderful drawings. Fourthly, you can, as with all good children’s literature, read it on several levels. Finally, it is a very good story.
The story is well-known. Saint-Exupéry’s plane crashes in the desert, rather like his plane crash in Terre des hommes (Wind, Sand, and Stars), only this time he is on his own. When he wakes up he sees a young man looking at him. The young man is, of course, the little prince. The prince lives on a small asteroid, alone with three volcanoes and a rather vain flower. The prince has travelled around, visiting six planets, all of which are very small and only have one inhabitant. Visit to all six confirm his essential belief that adults just don’t get it. There is, for example, the businessman who keeps detailed records of all the stars, which he claims to own or the alcoholic who drinks to forget. To forget what? To forget that he drinks. Saint-Exupéry handles these very well and illustrates them with his first-class drawings. Finally, the prince lands on earth and meets, amongst other creatures, a fox who befriends him and a snake that doesn’t kill him. Finally he meets Saint-Exupéry, himself clearly a child at heart, and, to cut a long story short, they hit it off. They understand each other and Saint-Exupéry tries to explain the adult world to the prince but it is the prince who has greatest effect on Saint-Exupéry. It is a superbly told tale and worked for me, who does not normally like children’s stories.
First published in French 1946 by Gallimard
First published in English 1943 by Reynal & Hitchcock
Note English edition published before the French edition
Translated by Richard Howard (early editions); Irene Testot-Ferry; Katherine Woods