Originally published 2016-02-24: A reluctant little reader’s new favorite classic book, The Little Prince
I read a classic book to my children, and my book-hating son asked if he could keep it.
If you’ve read anything I’ve written about my family, you will know that my daughter is the bookish one who devours books like I do. My son, on the other hand, is more mechanically inclined, and has historically been brought to tears over the little paper storybooks he is asked to read for his weekly homework.
Despite (or maybe to combat) his hatred of books, I’ve been trying to read to the kids more in the past few years than I have since they were very small. My daughter loves it, and my son… well, he tolerates it as a way to stay awake once he’s in bed, or instead of doing chores in the morning.
I read these books to them, and, being the love-it-and-leave-it type, I put them immediately in the box that is headed for a garage sale or to charity. We live in a small house, after all, and we have way too many things. (But that’s a whole other story.)
My son normally doesn’t say a word about the books that go into this box. I think he’s usually happy to see them go, because it means that he won’t be expected to sit down and read them aloud to me later. But this time was different.
He picked the worn, old book up with his little hand, and let out a sigh. I asked him, “What’s wrong?” And (I couldn’t make this up if I tried) he said, “I’m so sad that we are giving this book away.”
I was floored.
This child who hates all books was sad to see a book leave our house.
In the end, the book ended up in his closet to be revisited sometime in the coming months, and I came away with a shred of hope that my reluctant reader will one day be happy to open a book that he hasn’t been tasked with reading.
What book was it? The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
I bought it from a library book sale last year or the year before; its tattered cover and yellowed pages whispered to me like an old friend, though I had never read it before, and called up happy, nostalgic memories of childhood. I knew I had to share it with them.
The narrator is a downed pilot in the Sahara Desert, frantically trying to repair his wrecked plane. His efforts are interrupted one day by the apparition of a little, well, prince, who asks him to draw a sheep. “In the face of an overpowering mystery, you don’t dare disobey,” the narrator recalls. “Absurd as it seemed, a thousand miles from all inhabited regions and in danger of death, I took a scrap of paper and a pen out of my pocket.” And so begins their dialogue, which stretches the narrator’s imagination in all sorts of surprising, childlike directions.
The Little Prince describes his journey from planet to planet, each tiny world populated by a single adult. It’s a wonderfully inventive sequence, which evokes not only the great fairy tales but also such monuments of postmodern whimsy as Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. And despite his tone of gentle bemusement, Saint-Exupéry pulls off some fine satiric touches, too.
My children had all sorts of questions as I read the book aloud to them in bits and pieces over the course of a few weeks. Delightfully, my son could even answer questions about the content of the story, which is a rare feat when one considers his short attention span.
I give The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery five of five stars, and recommend it to children of all ages.
This is book #5 on my quest to #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks.
These are affiliate links; click on them to buy and I receive a small commission, but you don’t pay any extra.