My copy of Le Petit Prince looks like it has been through a natural disaster. Or two. The dust jacket is torn at every edge. What’s not torn is frayed. A piece of scotch tape holds together the éand r of Exupéry. The white background can’t really be called white anymore. And inside, little pencil markings lurk throughout the text (I would memorize passages when I was young), alongside evidence of attempted erasure—but you know how those old-school Number Two pencils are; all the erasers seem to do is leave things a little grayer than before. The book, in other words, has been well loved.
That’s not surprising. Most favorite children’s books are. But there’s one thing about mine that’s different: With the exception of those pesky eraser marks, the damage wasn’t sustained in childhood. Those are adult wounds.
The Little Prince is not alone to suffer that horrible fate: the designation of “children’s book” where it’s anything but, where it is actually far more worthy of an adult designation than many a so-called “adult” work. Leaving such books to childhood is a mistake of the worst kind. Fail to re-read them from a more mature standpoint and you’re almost guaranteed to miss what they’re all about.