The Little Prince Pop-Up Book

No story is more beloved by children and grown-ups alike than this wise, enchanting fable. The author reminisces about a day when his plane was forced down in the Sahara, a thousand miles from help. There he encountered a most extraordinary small-person. “If you please,” said the stranger, “draw me a sheep.” And thus begins

No story is more beloved by children and grown-ups alike than this wise, enchanting fable. The author reminisces about a day when his plane was forced down in the Sahara, a thousand miles from help. There he encountered a most extraordinary small-person. “If you please,” said the stranger, “draw me a sheep.” And thus begins the remarkable story of the Little Prince, whose strange history he learned, bit by bit, in the days that followed. There are few stories that in some way, in some degree, change the world forever for their readers. This is one.

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Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944) was the author of numerous books on the subject of aviation, many of which have become classics of French and world literature.Antoine de Saint-Exupéry first published The Little Prince in 1943, only a year before his Lockheed P-38 vanished over the Mediterranean during a reconnaissance mission. More than a half century later, this fable of love and loneliness has lost none of its power. The narrator is a downed pilot in the Sahara Desert, frantically trying to repair his wrecked plane. His efforts are interrupted one day by the apparition of a little, well, prince, who asks him to draw a sheep. “In the face of an overpowering mystery, you don’t dare disobey,” the narrator recalls. “Absurd as it seemed, a thousand miles from all inhabited regions and in danger of death, I took a scrap of paper and a pen out of my pocket.” And so begins their dialogue, which stretches the narrator’s imagination in all sorts of surprising, childlike directions.

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The Little Prince describes his journey from planet to planet, each tiny world populated by a single adult. It’s a wonderfully inventive sequence, which evokes not only the great fairy tales but also such monuments of postmodern whimsy as Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. And despite his tone of gentle bemusement, Saint-Exupéry pulls off some fine satiric touches, too. There’s the king, for example, who commands the Little Prince to function as a one-man (or one-boy) judiciary: I have good reason to believe that there is an old rat living somewhere on my planet. I hear him at night. You could judge that old rat. From time to time you will condemn him to death. That way his life will depend on your justice. But you’ll pardon him each time for economy’s sake. There’s only one rat. The author pokes similar fun at a businessman, a geographer, and a lamplighter, all of whom signify some futile aspect of adult existence. Yet his tale is ultimately a tender one–a heartfelt exposition of sadness and solitude, which never turns into Peter Pan-style treacle. Such delicacy of tone can present real headaches for a translator, and in her 1943 translation, Katherine Woods sometimes wandered off the mark, giving the text a slightly wooden or didactic accent. Happily, Richard Howard (who did a fine nip-and-tuck job on Stendhal’s The Charterhouse of Parma in 1999) has streamlined and simplified to wonderful effect. The result is a new and improved version of an indestructible classic, which also restores the original artwork to full color. “Trying to be witty,” we’re told at one point, “leads to lying, more or less.” But Saint-Exupéry’s drawings offer a handy rebuttal: they’re fresh, funny, and like the book itself, rigorously truthful. –James Marcus

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Comments

Reviews

david says:

I was pleasantly suprised This is a wonderful story, so my expectations were high for the popup version. I was blown away. The paper popups are intricate without being flimsy and perfectly bring to life the events and characters. It’s worth the extra money.If you’re not familiar with The Little Prince, it’s a story of a plane-wrecked pilot who meets someone who will fast teach him deep, tough lessons in beautifully simplistic, childlike ways. He quickly becomes attached to this little explorer as he learns more about the folly of grown-ups and the depth of truly living.

Christina Lo Birdsong says:

Gorgeous book, gift quality, most beautiful story written. If you don’t know the story of The Little Prince do yourself a favor and get a copy. I promise you will end up giving it as a gift to someone, maybe more than once. Just the story is enough to move the earth you walk on. Add to that the pop up feature and it is the best of such books I’ve seen. The pop ups are not weak, thin renditions, but sturdy, tough pop ups that will last through a hundred openings. This simple story teaches, in a several small ways, the enormity of our responsibility to relationships, what it means to be a friend and how it is when we understand that “it is as it is” and let go of constantly yearning for things to be different.

Constant Reader says:

Pretty book, BAD translation The pop-up creations are quite beautiful and very accurate. However, the French to English translation by a man named Richard Howard is awful. I encourage anyone who is interested in this story to find an older version of the book with a translation by Katherine Woods. She keeps the magic and beauty of the original French intact. In deference to Saint-Exupery, don’t buy any version translated by Howard.

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