Book Review: The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

It was children’s book week last week at the public library, and they had a huge display of staff favorites.  So when I entered the door, The Little Prince was waiting right there for me.  I must confess, I have never read this book in its entirety.  Such a classic, and I have only known about the sound bytes – one of the most famous being the quote, “Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”  Who knew it is a fox that actually says that in the book?

The story opens with a pilot stranded in the desert.  A pilot, who when he was younger, was dissuaded from pursuing his real passion:  drawing.  As a consequence, he only knows how to draw a boa from the inside and a boa from the outside.  But back to his being stranded in the desert.  While trying to fix his plane, he meets the Little Prince.  This Prince is from a planet that is quite small, with just one flower and three volcanoes (one being inactive, but you never know).  On his planet, he can see the sun set anytime he wants to, just by shifting the position of his chair.  The Prince sets out to explore the other planets around him, and in retelling his tale, we get to meet all the interesting people he has met.  The Prince’s final conclusion after all his interviews with strangers on new planets:  “Grown-ups are so strange.”  They don’t understand anything “important,” he determines – all they care about is numbers (and other such nonsense).

It is on the last planet he visits – Earth – that the Little Prince meets the fox.  This is my favorite part of the story.  It is when the Prince learns about being “tamed,” or really, I suppose, being loved (and loving in return).  The whole section with the fox was really beautiful, and is the source of the famous quote above.  The fox tells the Prince about what is essential, and explains “One sees clearly only with heart.”  He also explains that it is the time we spend on others that makes them valuable to us, that grows the love between us.  It’s wonderful.

The end of the story is bittersweet.  The major theme I took from this section is how precious memories can be, and how the world is made more alive by the people and the love we associate with everything on earth.  It’s not a new idea, but just beautifully put.  There are songs that remind me of others and make me smile.  Smells, sights, everything.

The staff member who chose this book for the display wrote as her reasoning for the choice:  “It reminds me to look at things as if I’d never looked at them before.”  I echo that sentiment.  And I believe it’s a lesson we could all bear to learn.

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