“That’s right,’ the Fox said. ‘For me you’re only a little boy just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you have no need of me, either. For you I’m only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, we’ll need each other. You’ll be the only boy in the world for me. I’ll be the only fox in the world for you…” (The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
Once I tried to read The Little Prince to a class of second graders. They fidgeted, fussed, and generally let their minds wander, for the words and structure of the book were far beyond their listening level. “But if The Little Prince is not meant for children,” I asked myself, “who is it meant for”? This question resurfaced recently when I found that a book distributor recommended Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s work for teenagers. This assessment, although consistent with the reading level, seems equally unsatisfying. If you know a fourteen year old who wouldn’t balk at reading a short book with a young main character, I would like to meet them.
So I decided to listen to the book on tape, and for the first time ever heard the dedication to Leon Werth:
I ask children to forgive me for dedicating this book to a grown-up.
I have a serious excuse: this grown-up is the best friend I have in the world. I have another excuse: this grown-up can understand anything, even books for children. I have a third excuse: he lives in France where he is hungry and cold. He needs to be comforted. If all these excuses are not enough, then I want to dedicate this book to the child whom this grown-up once was. All grown-ups were children first. (But few of them remember it.) So I correct my dedication: To Leon Werth, when he was a little boy.
If this dedication does not make the intended age clear, I don’t know what does. This is not a book for children, it is not a book for teenagers: it is a book for the child whom each grown-up once was. The lessons within the book are also for adults – children don’t need to remember to see with the heart instead of the eyes, they already know.
Beverage: Walk very slowly towards a drinking fountain… then slowly sip your ice-cold water on a hot day.
Reminds me… of nothing else, this book is one-of-a-kind.