Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Little Prince

"One sees clearly only with the heart. 
The essential is invisible to the eye."
Sweet little magnet with a sweet
little quote.  Get it here.
I teach 5th grade.  I used to teach 6th.  I've had a reading club for my students since my first year of teaching, when I took over the duty for the teacher I replaced mid year.  That first year, some of my students asked me if  I would take over their after school reading club- they met once a week in the classroom and read whatever they wanted to; really I think they just wanted a quiet place to read.  There were only three of four kids that first year.  The next year I decided to host reading club in my room again, but this time, I chose the books the students would read, I got class sets of them (Scholastic is a great source for this), and I read the book to the kids as they followed along in their copy.  We stopped and had discussions about what we read.  I would point out and ask about literary terms and figurative language as it surfaced in the novel.  This was all on a voluntary basis- the kids did not earn any credit for coming to reading club.  So what kept a bunch of 6th graders (and now 5th and 6th graders, since I am still doing this, but for 2 grades now, twice a week!) coming back week after week to hear me read to them?  I joke and say it is the food- the kids get to have snacks and eat in the classroom while we are reading.  They get to kick off their shoes, sit back (or lie down!) and relax.  I know this is part of the draw- when else does a teacher let you take off your shoes, lie down, and eat in the classroom?!  But really, the thing that draws a room full of kids week after week is whatever book we are reading.  We read really good books and that is what keeps them coming.
So anyway, one year, when I was still teaching 6th, a fellow teacher (3rd grade) gave me a class set of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  I had heard of this classic French novella before, but had never read it.  Toward the end of that school year, reading club and I had read all of the books that I had class sets of, and we still had a few weeks of school left and didn't want to stop meeting.  I pulled out Le Petit Prince, and we read that.  I instantly fell in love.  There was a lot of explaining on my part, because as you know if you have ever read this classic, it is a very philosophical little book, but the kids ended up really enjoying it too.  I have not tried to read that book again with another group of students, but that hasn't stopped me from reading it again myself.  
image via Le Petit Prince
If you have not read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, I definitely recommend going out and getting yourself a copy.  In French or English.  Or both.  It is a beautiful little book, and the author was quite the Renaissance man- I included a quote from him here, on another post, which is what got me thinking about Le Petit Prince.  Saint-Exupery was an aviator, a writer, and a poet.  In 1935, he and his navigator were trying to break a speed record in an air race when they crashed in the Sahara Desert.  In the book, we meet the little prince after the pilot-narrator of the story crash lands in the desert; the prince is also marooned there, having come from his little asteroid.  The drawings in the book were originally watercolors painted by the author himself, and the figure of the little prince has become quite iconic, especially in France.  
The plane Antoine de Saint-Exupery's was piloting on a mission was thought to have been gunned down during WWII; his body was never found, though the body of a French soldier did wash to shore near where he had been flying.  In 1998, a fisherman near Marsailles found Exupery's i.d. bracelet hooked to a piece of fabric.  A diver later found pieces of the plane that had gone down.  The mystery surrounding the author's death had let some to speculate, and perhaps even to hope, that he had staged the crash (or perhaps just used it to his advantage) and simply disappeared from the public's eye.
Whatever may be the case, his legacy still lives on in his work, and most notably in the figure of The Little Prince.

The author himself.
image via

Plaid: The Little Prince
On the website where they sell this,
when you translate the page from French it calls it
"Throw the Little Prince," so I'm assuming it
must be a throw blanket.  Sadly, I don't speak
 French, so I have to assume.  Get it here-
they ship internationally.
I love this part, in the very beginning of the book, when the narrator is telling us of the very first picture he drew.  He had read about and seen a picture of "a boa constrictor in the act of  swallowing an animal."  He learned that a boa constrictor eats the the prey whole, without chewing it, and then waits out the long process of digestion to finish off the animal.  So he drew a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant.  I think it is brilliant logic there, and this idea stays true to the beautiful little minds of children.
image via
image via kaien

This is the entrance to The Museum of the Little Prince in Tokyo.
Tokyo, as in Japan.  Not France.  


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