I never read The Little Prince as a child, so I was looking forward to reading it with my seven-year-old son. Unfortunately, this strange and charming little story didn’t capture my son’s attention, but it did hold onto mine.
The classic children’s book tells the story of a pilot whose plane crashes in the middle of a desert. There he encounters a prince from another planet, who recounts his travels around the universe.
In particular, he talks about his own planet, and a lone flower that he used to protect, but which he left there. It is the image of the flower that is the most poignant part of this book.
While it is illuminating to read about the delusions of those who he visited on different planets, the flower which inconvenienced the little prince, but which the prince missed while he was gone, was difficult to forget.
When the little prince encounters a whole bush of similar flowers, he is struck by what makes his flower special – the fact that he knows and cares for the flower, making it quite different from the rest even though it might appear to be exactly the same.
As in the best books, Saint-Exupéry’s story reveals what is important to readers, and helps them look in a different way at what they thought they already knew.
However, beyond this reading, there is far more depth to the story than what the casual reader might encounter. My son wasn’t the only one from whom the subtlety of the book escaped in the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik wrote of the various interpretations of the book, and the author’s intended meaning and inspiration. And so, the story is one of war, exile and love, a fable and a philosophy that is at times funny and deadly serious.
If you come away from a book with an evocative image that gives you pause later, when you have time to think, that is an excellent book. All the better if it is a children’s book that has that effect. I’m glad that I finally read The Little Prince, and just wish I hadn’t waited so long.