Is The Little Prince a children’s book? It’s the question I’ve been asking myself since reading it for the first time a couple weeks ago. It’s the question I’m still asking myself.
It definitely appears to be a children’s book. It’s short in length, it includes integral illustrations. The main character is a “little” prince, apparently a child, who has a hard time understanding adults. The narrator is an adult, but even he considers other adults to be unperceptive and out of touch with what’s important.
But the book seems deep, way too deep to be a children’s book. It is full of deep thoughts, potential symbols, possible layers of meaning.
So is it a children’s book?
I don’t know, but I’m going to treat it as though it is.
Because The Little Prince seems determined to contradict the idea that big ideas and deep thoughts are the purview of adults. In fact, The Little Prince almost certainly proclaims that adults have got the world all wrong.
The story opens with the narrator telling of, when he was a boy, drawing a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. He showed his drawing to adults but they never understood it, since they saw only a dark outline, not comprehending the elephant within. The narrator explains that “Grownups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.” The narrator started using this drawing as a test of sorts, to see whether people were perceptive or not. Of course, the grownups never were, and so he would bring himself down to the adult’s level, speaking of bridge and golf and politics and neckties.
But after the narrator crashes his plane in the Sahara, he meets a little prince who has the perception to recognize a sheep inside a sketched box. Slowly, the narrator learns the little prince’s story – how he hails from a tiny planet which he carefully tends, how he has traveled through the universe, how he has tamed a fox and been tamed by a rose.
And as we read the little prince’s tale, we learn with him the foolishness of kings pretending to be absolute, of conceited men in their self-admiration, of drunkards drinking to forget their shame, of businessmen so occupied with money that they cannot enjoy life, of workers so busy with work that they never rest, of scholars whose self-importance prevents them from ever actually learning. We learn that everyone and everything is limited in perspective, seeing only what he will and what he can. We learn that relationships are what make life meaningful, that relationships require work. We learn that relationships can cause deep pain, but are also a source of great joy.
We learn, along with the little prince and his new friend, that life does not consist in its outer trappings, in power or position or prestige. Life consists of inner quality, of care for others, of loving and being loved.
And this is why I love this simple and complex little book with its simple and complex little prince.
It is a children’s book, yet not a children’s book – reminding us what really matters.
Rating: 5 stars
Category: Children’s (?) fantasy
Synopsis: A pilot meets a little prince after a crash in the Sahara – and learns great lessons from the little prince’s intergalactic travels.
Recommendation: Absolutely worth reading.