Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Review: The Little Prince Graphic Novel

Le Petit Prince
It was only after I started reading this graphic novel adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince that I realized I have never actually read the original version.  Has this ever happened to you?  I think for me, the case is particularly prevalent with children's books that everyone reads, and so I just assume I have read them, too.  And then... er, I really haven't.  This is one of those occasions.

But after reading this adaptation, I really want to read the original The Little Prince (well, translated into English).  The story is deceptively simple- a man's plane breaks down in the middle of the desert.  He works to fix it and then, almost by magic, a little boy comes up to him and asks the man to draw him a picture of a sheep.  From there, we are taken on a wonderful journey with a man rediscovering his childhood through the help of a mysterious young boy who hails from a distant planet.  The boy (the little prince of the title) describes to the narrator his journey to Earth.  He talks about his home planet, where he is the sole caretaker of three volcanoes and a beautiful rose.  He describes the other planets he visited, all with only one inhabitant- a king, a businessman, a geographer and a lamplighter.  Through the little prince, our narrator begins to rediscover a childlike wonder for the world.

The Little Prince
As I've never read the original of this story, my review may be a little different than others.  I can't compare the language or point out what the artist left out.  I can only say that this was a beautiful story.  I can't find samples of the pictures online (probably because the book hasn't been released yet).  I admit that at first, I wasn't a huge fan of the drawings.  They seemed odd and almost simplistic.  I am not sure if they are similar to Saint-Exupery's drawings, but they didn't do much for me at first.  But then as I got drawn into the story, I liked them more and more.  The illustrator, Joann Sfar, drew the pictures in a way that reminds me very much of nearly every children's book I read growing up.  There is a limited color palette.  Instead, the drawings depend much more on texture to convey depth and shadow and expression.  After several pages, I became much more comfortable with this and started to appreciate the effort that must have gone into illustrations like this.  I really thought the pictures added a lot to the story- they had a surreal and dream-like feel to them that complemented the words perfectly.

But, for me, it was the story that was so captivating.  I have a feeling it must be magical to read this book in its full, unedited glory.  I love the idea of a man who has lost his way meeting a child and regaining a sense of wonder and getting an entirely new perspective on the world.  I know it's been done before (or had it, when this was first published?), but not in such a beautiful way.  This story isn't just about a man who befriends a child.  It's about loneliness and isolation and a loss of idealism.  It didn't surprise me at all to find that this book was written and published during the German occupation of France during World War II.  Even though it is a lovely story, it also has a weight of sadness and loss in it.  I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading this and highly recommend it.  I also plan to read the full text as soon as I can!

This review is based on an advanced reader's copy.  I received a free e-ARC from NetGalley to review.


  1. Um. The original is a picture book. So I'm not going to lie...I'm confused about how one can do a graphic adaptation of a picture book. But I shall try not to judge! ;)

  2. I didn't know this existed! I'm glad to hear it does, though. And yes, read the original, Aarti! It's a beautiful book, and one of my absolute favourites.

  3. Now I am confused. I have never read the original, but imagined it as a novel, yet Eva mentioned that it is only a picture book. I have vague memories of a film called 'The Little Prince', but now I am wondering if I got that muddled with something else.

  4. Ok, I just looked it up on Amazon and I totally lied! lol I read this soooo many years ago, I guess my main memories are of the illustrations. It's not a picture book, and obviously I shouldn't trust my memory. ;) That being said, there are quite a few illustrations done by Antoine de Saint-Exupery that are really integral to the text, so I still wonder a bit about a graphic adaptation. The obvious solution, Aarti, is for you to read the original and then fill us in. hehe

  5. This is on my wishlist - thanks for the review!

  6. LOL I saw the comments that said this is originally a picture book and was wondering what you guys were talking about! :D I see Eva corrected that though. I've actually never read this one in English, but I have read the full text in French. Despite it being a small book it took me three weeks to get through it in French, and that was when my French was a lot better than now...

    I'm sure I missed tons, though. Like I don't even remember the guy with the broken down car. I've always thought I should probably read this in English to get a full comprehension of it.

    Interesting note: my boys had a board book picture version as kids that they loved to bite...

  7. Eva- Yes, clearly I need to read the original illustrated novella and figure out what's going on. I think the artist copied the original author's style, but it seems that Saint-Exupery has a very whimsical style of illustrating that would appeal to me. I'll report back! When, I don't know...

    Nymeth- I don't know how I haven't read it! I feel so out of the loop. And if it's one of your favorites, I know that means I'd like it, too.

    Vivienne- All cleared up now! Yes, it is a novel, not a picture book. I don't think you're muddled at all, Eva is just causing a ruckus ;-)

    Manga Maniac- Sure! I hope you enjoy it, too!

  8. I have never read this one either, though I do mostly know what it's about and how the story goes. You are right, it is a beautiful story that teaches more than one lesson. I also see what you mean about the drawings. At first when I looked at the one you posted, the prince seemed a little cartoony, but then I looked behind him to the pilot next to the plane, and got a whole different feel. I think I might like to read this graphic novel (in addition to the other) and I know that it is something that my daughter would love. Thanks for your insight on this one!

  9. Anonymous7/21/2010

    I read the original years ago and I have to admit that I didn't quite "get" what all the fuss was about. I guess I should try again. I think it will be a reread of the original, because I don't really like the picture featured on the cover of this one. I know it's stupid to have so small a detail influence you, but I can't help it.

  10. Hm, yes I do confess to never having read this, and I fear it's more likely I will read the graphic novel before teh actual book

  11. The original is wonderful and you can read it in a really short time. Although it is not technically a picture book, it is *almost* a picture book, which makes one wonder why someone would make a graphic novel out of it. Plus I love the original illustrations. I will be interested to hear what you think after you check out the original!

  12. I haven't read the original story either but I want to!

  13. I am bewildered at the notion of making this into a graphic novel in the first place, given how heavily (and beautifully!) illustrated the original is. I'll be very interested to see what you think of the original; and I am quite curious myself to read the comic version. I wonder what they left in and what they took out. Did they take out the lamplighter?

  14. I absolutely adored this book (the original) when I read it last year. Like some of the others, I'm quite surprised that a "graphic novel" version exists, as the original has loads of illustrations that just make this magical story come alive.

    The cover on the original is slightly more appealing as well - or maybe, I'm just biased. ;)

  15. Zibilee- Yes, once I got further into the story, I started to enjoy the pictures!

    Iris- There are many books I don't quite "get" ;-)

    Blodeuedd- Considering how many adaptations of classics there are now, I think a lot of people will read the GN before the original!

    rhapsody- It may be a while, but I'll see!

    Amy- Makes me feel better that I'm not the only one.

    Jenny- I am sorry to bewilder you, I didn't know! :-) The lamplighter is in this version.

    another cookies- You're not the only one who has said that!

  16. Anonymous7/21/2010

    I totally know what you mean...I'm not sure if I ever read the original, but I've heard so much about it that it seems like I have! And my French classroom in high school had Little Prince paintings on the wall, so I spent 3 years staring at the little dude.

  17. When I was very young, I read this book at least a couple times! needless to say, that was years ago, and I don't remember very much about it except the illustration of a hat that was actually a snake that swallowed an elephant (I think)...or was it the other way around? I still have my copy, so I should pull it off and look at it.

    Seems like lots of books are getting the graphic novel treatment these days, even Agatha Christie (saw it, but didn't pick it up).

  18. I love the original, you must read it. I'm very intrigued by this adaptation though, I can imagine that it would really work.

  19. It took many years and many urgings before I got around to reading the original, but I'm so glad I did. It was one of my favourite books that year. Your review makes me want to reread it! I'm not sure how I feel about a graphic novel adaptation, though. The original was so beautiful that I almost don't want to see it reinterpreted.


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