I love children and young adult books. Not because they’re easy to read, but because many books in these genres put forth themes that adults may think kids can’t handle. One such book is Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince. Now some people will read the previous sentence and think I’m making things up. This is a book for children.
To these people I say, you’re what Saint-Exupery is dissing in this. You only see things at face value and not what’s important.
For those who’ve never read this book, it’s about an unnamed man who, while flying solo over Africa, crash- lands in the desert. Here he meets what looks like a little boy but is actually a prince who lives alone on a tiny planet no bigger than an asteroid. The Prince tells the man his story of how he got to earth.
For a book for children, it sure has a lot of things for everyone to think about. One of the obvious ones is how adults view the world versus how children view it. Children see a much bigger picture and adults only see what they want. What Saint-Exupery is saying here is that there’s a lot more to the world than what we see. It’s just that adults refuse to see it.
There is a part of the book where the Prince goes to various planets inhabited by a single adult. It’s here where we get some societal commentary. Each adult is only interested in their own things and nothing else. There’s a king who only cares about bossing people around, a drunk who only cares about drinking and a lamp lighter who’s constantly opening a closing a lamp because “orders.” The is confused by all of these.
He should be confused by it. You see, this is exactly how a kid would react. Kids have this view of the view that everything is important and must have some reason behind it and they’ll figure out that reason dammit. The problem is adults tend to give the “just because” answer every time. What this does is it turns kids into adults that accept this “just because” mentality.
This anti-adult mentality may come across as Saint-Exuperywriting for children, but once you dig deeper he’s actually begging adults to be more open to the world and see that things are much more than what they appear.
This is the reason why this book is a classic. It doesn’t talk down to kids. Instead, it makes them see that there is more to the world than what adults tell them there is. It also tells adults to be more like kids.
The Little Prince has a lot going for it not despite it’s a kids book, but because it is a kids book. It’s like some cartoons: Just because it’s a kids book show does not mean that kids are stupid. They are a lot smarter than what us adults think they are. Give this book a read and see for yourselves.