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The Little Prince
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince, first published in 1943, is a classic fable about a stranded pilot's encounter with a young prince who travels from planet to planet in search of knowledge. This gentle book looks like it's a book for children, but it's generally better appreciated and enjoyed by an older audience. The language and themes can sail over the heads of young, casual readers, but there's nothing inappropriate for young readers. The prince allows himself to be bitten by a poisonous snake, which some children might view as suicide even though the author explains that the prince isn't dead. Older versions mention "Negro kings"; modern editions use the phrase "African kings."
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What's the story?
A pilot crashes in the Sahara desert. While attempting to fix his plane a thousand miles from any habitation, he meets a strangely dressed little boy who seems to have come from nowhere and who demands that he draw a sheep. "When a mystery is too overpowering, one dare not disobey," so the pilot attempts to draw a sheep. Gradually the Little Prince reveals his story. He comes from a small asteroid, where he lived alone until a rose grew there. But the rose was demanding, and he was confused by his feelings about her. Eventually he decided to leave and journey to other planets in search of knowledge. After meeting many confusing adults, he eventually landed on Earth, where he befriended a snake and a fox. The fox helped him to understand the rose, and the snake offered to help him return to his planet -- but at a price.
Is it any good?
Beloved by generations of readers, this gentle, bittersweet fable can be a hard sell for kids: Poetic language, symbolic scenes, and philosophical discussions make it a better fit for older readers. Nevertheless, curled up with the right adult, kids with the patience can find their introduction to THE LITTLE PRINCE's kindly philosophy one of their most vivid moments of childhood.
You won't go wrong with either the original translation by Katherine Woods or the newer translation by Richard Howard, which features updated language -- both serve Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's classic story well. Do seek out an edition with Saint-Exupéry's whimsical watercolors, which contribute so much to this book's magical hold over readers. Several editions published in connection with the 2016 animated film feature artwork from the film; the stills are beautiful in their own way but are a departure from Saint-Exupéry's iconic images.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what it means when the fox says you're forever responsible for what you've tamed. How does that relate to your own relationships?
Do you think this book's ending is sad or happy?
Both the Little Prince and the pilot have a dim view of adults. Do you think they're right?
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