Review: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Richard Howard (Translator)

June 15, 2016 2016 Review Challenge, 2016 Something For Everyone Challenge, 5 Stars, Book Review, Classic Fantasy, Hardback, recommendations, short story/Vignette, YA/MG 2 ★★★★★

Review: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Richard Howard (Translator) five-stars
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Richard Howard (Translator)
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on April 1943
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, MG/YA
Pages: 85
Format: Hardcover
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Few stories are as widely read and as universally cherished by children and adults alike as The Little Prince. Richard Howard's translation of the beloved classic beautifully reflects Saint-Exupéry's unique and gifted style. Howard, an acclaimed poet and one of the preeminent translators of our time, has excelled in bringing the English text as close as possible to the French, in language, style, and most important, spirit. The artwork in this edition has been restored to match in detail and in color Saint-Exupéry's original artwork. Combining Richard Howard's translation with restored original art, this definitive English-language edition of The Little Prince will capture the hearts of readers of all ages.

This title has been selected as a Common Core Text Exemplar (Grades 4-5, Stories).

“But eyes are blind. You have to look with your heart.”

I’ve read The Little Prince many, many times. My mom had a beautiful, small hardback edition of this when I was small and it always fascinated me for some reason. I haven’t attempted to read The Little Prince in well over 20 years but the echoes of those many childhood reads surround me as I read it now.

The edition mom owned had slightly different illustrations than this copy. This copy says that it includes the original drawings by de Saint-Exupéry so the one I read must have included another person’s work. I vividly recall the flower drawn as a rose with a beautiful little red-head woman in the center.

I also don’t remember the story being so very sad. I have some vague remembrances of having to be consoled near the end – but this read! OMG. This read ripped my heart to pieces. For such a little book The Little Prince packs a huge wallop. I simply could not read it in one sitting. I would start to get sad, then to sniffle…then full blown tears.

I just don’t remember The Little Prince being this sad.

“At night, you’ll look up at the stars. It’s too small, where I live, for me to show you where my star is. It’s better that way. My star will be…one of the stars, for you. So you’ll like looking at all of them. They’ll all be your friends. And besides, I have a present for you.” He laughed again.

“Ah, little fellow, I love hearing that laugh!”

“That’ll be my present. Just that…It’ll be the same as for the water.”

“What do you mean?”

“People have stars, but they aren’t the same. For travelers,, the stars are guides. For other people, they’re nothing but tiny lights. And for still others, for scholars, they’re problems. For my businessman, they were gold. But all those stars are silent stars. You, though, you’ll have stars like nobody else.”

“What do you mean?”

“When you look up at the sky at night, since I’ll be living on one of them, since I’ll be laughing on one of them, for you it’ll be as if all the stars are laughing. You’ll have stars that can laugh!”

And he laughed again.

“And when you’re consoled (everyone eventually is consoled), you’ll be glad you’ve known me. And you’ll open your window sometimes just for the fun of it…and your friends will be amazed to see you laughing while you’re looking up at the sky. Then you’ll tell them, ‘Yes, it’s the stars; they always make me laugh!’ And they’ll think you’re crazy. It’ll be a nasty trick I played on you…”
-pg 77-78

As I write this, I’m not feeling very consoled. There’s been a lot of death in 2016. From icons like David Bowie and Prince, to family members and friends.

While reading The Little Prince, I realized that there is just a lot to parse. In a way, The Little Prince reminded me of mindfulness – how he encourages the narrator to pay attention to the small things – because it’s the small things that are important and improve quality of life. To literally stop a smell the roses.

I could take you farther than a ship,” the snake said. He coiled around the little prince’s ankle, like a golden bracelet. “Anyone I touch, I send back to the land from which they came,” the snake went on. “But you’re an innocent, and you come from a star…”

The little prince made no reply.

“I feel sorry for you, being so weak on this granite earth,” said the snake. “I can help you, someday, if you grow too homesick for your planet. I can-”

“Oh, I understand just what you mean,” said the little prince, “but why do you always speak in riddles?”
-pg 51

An innocent. Who came from a star. Talking to a snake. I can’t help but to see some religious symbolism there… Or maybe I just want to see it? Because this [story] makes me so incredibly sad now?

The Little Prince teaches us that the benefit of hard work isn’t just the results, its the ownership we get when we make something ours. This ownership makes everything better – more personal and more valuable. And when we take ownership of something, we take responsibility as well.

I raised the bucket to his lips. He drank, eyes closed. It was a sweet as a feast. That water was more than merely a drink. It was born of our walk beneath the stars, of the song of the pulley, of the effort of my arms. It did the heart good, like a present. When I was a little boy, the Christmas-tree lights, the music of midnight mass, the tenderness of people’s smiles made up, in the same way, the whole radiance of the Christmas present I received.
-pg 71

It also felt like a…story written to console and/or explain death.

That night I didn’t see him leave. He got away without making a sound. When I managed to catch up with him, he was walking fast, with determination. All he said was, “Ah, you’re here.” And he took my hand. But he was still anxious. “You were wrong to come. You’ll suffer. I’ll look as if I’m dead, and that won’t be true…”

I said nothing.

“You understand. It’s too far. I can’t take this body with me. It’s too heavy.”

I said nothing.

“But it’ll be like an old abandoned shell. There’s nothing sad about an old shell…”

I said nothing.

He was a little disheartened now. But he made one more effort.

“It’ll be nice, you know. I’ll be looking at the stars, too. All the stars will be wells with a rusty pulley. All the stars will poor out water for me to drink…”

I said nothing.

“And it’ll be fun! You’ll have five-hundred million little bells; I’ll have five-hundred million springs of fresh water…”

And he, too, said nothing, because he was weeping…
-pg 78-80

I can’t. I’m a little raw right now and there’s no way I can do much more with this review. In fact, while I love this story, I really just want to get the book out of my house and back to the library. Even writing this review (and thus thinking about The Little Prince) brings me to tears.

The Little Prince is quite the lovely tale. Everything about it is a wonderful gift to the world from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry but damn if it doesn’t break my heart.

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