The Little Prince, and Other Children's Books for Grown-ups
August 04, 2012
One of the books I remember most from my years in high school was a children's book that wasn't even in English. As part of a French language course, I read Antoine Saint-Exupéry's classic Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) in its original French version. I'm not a particularly emotional person, but the story of the little prince from Asteroid B-612 nearly brought me to tears. It still does today. Since then, I've read or reread a few other "children's books" that I would consider even better when read as an adult. Here are a few of my favorites:
- The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. A book of quintessential Englishness. The car-loving eccentric, Toad of Toad Hall, is one of my all-time favorite literary characters.
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. Travel through time and space with the mysterious Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which.
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. Sometimes as adults, we lose touch with the strange, parallel culture of children. For instance, every kid seems to know "the floor is lava" scenario intuitively. This book is a hilariously accurate depiction of a middle school boy's worldview. I still laugh at the mention of "the cheese touch."
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. We often forget that children have a dark side, and this beautifully illustrated book captures it better than any other.
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. When life gets us down, don't we all wish for a secret garden of our own?
- And finally, almost anything by Dr. Seuss. Combining whimsical artwork, clever rhymes, and often profound messages, Seuss's books are the gold standard of children's literature. I have written of my love for Sam I Am and Green Eggs and Ham previously, but the Sneetches, the Lorax, the Grinch, and Horton the Elephant all have a place in my heart as well.