For this Marvelous Middle Grade Monday I’m doing another classic book; and this time I must go further back. Recently while unpacking my books after moving house, I came across a paperback copy of The Little Prince. My daughter was nearby so I suggested she read a bit of it. She’s seven, but a very strong reader for her age, and had no trouble reading the words. She read a few pages, and then my husband joined us and began reading out loud. After a few more pages, my daughter realized she was familiar with the story because she had seen it performed as a play.
She listened attentively, and reading a few pages became, for a time, a nightly ritual. A week to so later, they finished the book.
The Little Prince is another short book, with only 16534 words. Its reading level is about grade five, so it’s not an easy book, but by no means is the vocabulary challenging. However, some readers, in fact I would venture to say ALL readers will have trouble fully understanding the narrative. It’s one of those books that you can read as a child and understand one way, and then read again as an adult, reaching a completely different understanding. I’m not even sure how to tell you what this book is truly about. Only let me say this – you must read this book. Until you do you will never fully understand what it means to love someone.
My recent reading of this book with my family eventually led to one of the most profound and heartbreaking moments I have yet had as a parent. A few days after we had finished the book, my daughter came into my office looking for it. It was on my desk, so I handed it to her and kept working. She flipped to the last short chapter and read it again. Then she read it out loud.
I turned to her and asked “Do you know what happened?”
She looked uncertain. “He went back to his planet?” she said. Then, and I may never forgive myself for how carelessly I said this, I said “No, I think he died.”
Tears welled up in her eyes. “He died?” she said and then I held her as she cried.
We don’t have pets (I’m allergic) but even if we did, I would never be the kind of parent who tells their child that “Fluffy just ran away” when I know very well that Fluffy was squashed by a UPS truck. The truth of death is something we all must face, many of us when we’re children. My daughter hasn’t known much death but we haven certainly talked about it. It just pains me to think that I told her of the Little Prince’s death with less care than I might have told her about Fluffy the hapless cat.
Later when her tears were dried, we talked about it, and I explained that the Little Prince let the snake bite him, because that was the only way he could get home. I confessed I wasn’t sure what that meant, that no one really knows. “He’s just a character in a story,” I said, even though I know that is a lie.
I can barely write this without tearing up. The Little Prince is so precious and perfect a book that it sometimes makes me believe in divine inspiration. Maybe Antoine De Saint-Exupéry really was visited by some kind of little angel when he crashed in the desert. We shall never know, of course. Shortly after his masterpiece was published De Saint-Exupéry’s plane was lost during a mission in 1944. Whatever secrets he had about The Little Prince died with him.
But the magic of The Little Prince lives on. Anyone who reads it will carry that magic with them always. And we never stop searching. So “if a child comes towards you, if he laughs, if he has golden locks and if he refuses to answer questions, you will surely guess who he is. So be kind! Do not leave me grieving. Write to me quickly to tell me that he has come back…”
For this Monday’s ‘I Can’t Wait to Read’ I’m going with May B by Caroline Rose, which will be published in January next year. May B has a number of things going for it, as far as I’m concerned. It’s written in verse, it’s a survival story, and the protagonist has a learning disability. Seriously, where do I sign? May B from Schwartz and Wade in January 2012. Look out for it.
Visit other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday Blogs here:
– Shannon O’Donnell Click HERE
– Joanne Fritz Click HERE .
– Barbara Watson Click HERE .
– Jennifer Rumberger Click HERE.
– Pam Torres Click HERE .
– Michael Gettel-Gilmartin Click HERE .
– Natalie Aguirre Click HERE
– Akossiwa Ketoglo Click HERE .
– Myrna Foster Click HERE
– Deb Marshall HERE .
– Danika Dinsmore. Click HERE .