By Maria Konnikova
An adult reflects on the valuable lessons of The Little Prince, Alice in Wonderland, and Winnie-the-Pooh.
My copy of Le Petit Prince looks like it has been through a natural disaster. Or two. The dust jacket is torn at every edge. What’s not torn is frayed. A piece of scotch tape holds together the é and r of Exupéry. The white background can’t really be called white anymore. And inside, little pencil markings lurk throughout the text (I would memorize passages when I was young), alongside evidence of attempted erasure—but you know how those old-school Number Two pencils are; all the erasers seem to do is leave things a little grayer than before. The book, in other words, has been well loved.
That’s not surprising. Most favorite children’s books are. But there’s one thing about mine that’s different: With the exception of those pesky eraser marks, the damage wasn’t sustained in childhood. Those are adult wounds.
The Little Prince is not alone to suffer that horrible fate: the designation of “children’s book” where it’s anything but, where it is actually far more worthy of an adult designation than many a so-called “adult” work. Leaving such books to childhood is a mistake of the worst kind. Fail to re-read them from a more mature standpoint and you’re almost guaranteed to miss what they’re all about.
To a child, The Little Prince is the story of a boy who falls from the sky, meets lots of funny people on his travels, and then returns to his star. But take a closer look and you find as clear a commentary on everything that’s wrong with modern life—and what can be done to fix it—as you would in the most biting social satire.
Click here to read the rest of this story