I have many favorite books, but one of my top favs is…
The Little Prince
By: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Growing up in the 80’s, we had our favorite books we wanted to read over and over again. The first time I heard the story of “The Little Prince” was sometime in the late 80s. I was maybe around 8 or 9 and my mother read the story to me chapter by chapter before bed. I enjoyed the Prince’s journey and loved the illustrations. My favorite character was the fox because at that age I loved stories about kids and animals being friends. I adored “Pippi Longstocking”, thinking she was the coolest kid for being super strong, kind and caring for a horse and a monkey! Another favorite was “The Wizard of Oz” which I read many different versions of as a kid because I was fascinated by the characters. I also read the L. Frank Balm series of OZ stories. And of course only made my obsession with convincing my parents to get us a dog even stronger! I remember wanting a pony too, but at least having the foresight to see that would require a farm and we certainly did not have room for a farm in our backyard. So, I would settle for a dog or a little puppy. Afterall, I understood how to take care of animals because I had learned from “The Little Prince” how to tame someone. I would provide food, water and a nice brisk walk daily… lol … so funny to think back on all this now. But these milestones are so important for child development. I love books like these because you can always learn something new when you re-read the book later in life.
Years later, I read the book myself. Once in high school, once for a college lit. class and then again years after college. Each time I read the book, a different part of the story spoke to me and I heard what I needed to hear. I remember once really hearing the fox’s message to the prince on a deeper level, relating it to relationships. No longer equating it to the simple message of a little girl taking care of a puppy.
Then, even later on, in my college years, I looked at the various people he met on each planet to represent various people we all encounter on our own journey and if we look deeply into their eyes, we can see they are all suffering from various afflictions. How do you view the world? This story explores the dangers of narrow-mindedness and the affliction of “adulthood” we can easily fall into if we don’t keep our childlike mind sharp.
Do you see a hat?
Or a snake eating an elephant?
The businessman represents the perfect adult because his mind is only occupied by numbers. As we grow up, our interests change because of what society demands of us. We must take responsibility and earn a living. Hence, we can no longer be a child and play with toys or play on playground.
The King is depicted a self-centered person who thinks highly of himself. However, this superiority brings only loneliness to him and causes people, like the little Prince to leave him. He thinks he knows everything and possesses everything, but in truth, he is very ignorant of the world beyond his miniature planet.
The Clown is like a person wearing blinders creating tunnel vision , blocking out the beauty of the world outside his vision. He also does not recognize faults within himself because he’s so self-absorbed. For a person to be respected and admired, one needs to contribute to the world or to make a difference in someone’s life. The Clown does neither. He is living a life that is meaningless and full of lies because he fully believes that he’s the most wonderful person in the world, even though he did nothing to build his reputation. Hence, One cannot judge a person by their appearance or by the way they talk. One can only judge a person by the things they do and don’t do.
The drunkard- a man who drinks because he is ashamed of drinking a vicious cycle that goes on forever… and very common in America.
It was said somewhere in the story that the lamplighter was someone the prince could see himself befriending. I think this is probably because he can relate to him more so than many of the other absurd characters he met on his journey. He lights the lamp daily, like the little prince care for his rose daily. When he lights his street lamp, it is as if he brought one more star to life, or one flower. When he puts out his lamp, he sends the flower, or the star, to sleep. This is a noble profession and very humbling.
Another favorite author of mine is Torey Hayden. I believe I read all her books. Being a teacher and working with emotionally disturbed children in the past has really opened my eyes to the world of child psychology. Children are so incredibly vulnerable and impressionable that, we as teachers, parents, care givers, must be very careful what kind of messages we are sending. And this woman has the natural ability to, as the fox said, “tame”. There is even a section in her book, “One Child” where she reads “The Little Prince” to this little 5 year old girl who is mute and very aggressive. What happens in their time together parallels the fox and the prince “taming” one another and it will just melt your heart as you read about the bond developing between the little girl, Shelia, and her teacher, Torey.
A MUST READ for all TEACHERS out there!!
Looking back on my childhood fav. books- I can see the similarities between the Wizard of Oz series, Pippi Longstocking, Pinocchio and even the Harry Potter obsession (which came much later) I’m a big kid at heart. I don’t think I will ever stop enjoying the YA genre!
All of these stories have common themes:
& the epic journey that eventually leads us to “coming of age”- whether we are ready to “grow up” or not, the spiritual awareness comes in the midst of overcoming great obstacles or even after living in the shadows of fear.
Amazing writers create believable characters we can connect with, and good characters are what really make a good story! And a good story is truly in the eyes of the beholder. So when you are writing, think about these questions:
- What kind of people / personalities do you relate to?
- What intrigues you about a good character plot twist?
- And most important- What kind of people INSPIRE you and why?!
Patch Adams – a pen pal and inspiring friend since 2003. I dedicated my book, “The True Story of Santa Claus” to this man because his work encouraged me to write about the real everyday “Santas” in America who shine and pour their heart into everything they do, without getting credit or much recognition.
and the late Robin Williams- one of my all time favorite comedians / actors – Love this picture of the two of them together preparing for the movie “Patch Adams” in 1998