A review of The Little Prince (audio) by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This latest audio version, read in a lucid and calm BBC voice by actor John Gaden, is beautifully set out, with exquisite and carefully chosen classical music between each chapter. The music is played by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and contains pieces written by Georges Bizet, including a number of the pieces from L’Arlesienne Suit No 1, as well as the Roma Symphony, and La Jolie Fille de Perth Suite.

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

The Little Prince
By Antoine De Saint-Exupery
ABC Audio
2 CD set Read by John Gaden, 115 minutes
ISBN : 0642563381, A$19.95

The Little Prince was written in 1943 and I can remember clearly reading it as a child, and feeling that rare sense of being thoroughly understood. Taken at face value, it is an odd story, which doesn’t quite add up, at least to the average grown-up. A young prince appears out of nowhere in the Sahara Desert while the narrator, a pilot, is trying to fix his plane. The prince comes from another planet and has arrived on Earth in search of a sheep, which the pilot dutifully draws for him, sort of. The story is, of course deeply metaphoric, and touches on significant topics like love, friendship, wonder, and perhaps even the meaning of life, but in such a way that both children and adults will comprehend instantly with their hearts before comprehending with their heads, which is its key theme.

This latest audio version, read in a lucid and calm BBC voice by actor John Gaden, is beautifully set out, with exquisite and carefully chosen classical music between each chapter. The music is played by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and contains pieces written by Georges Bizet, including a number of the pieces from L’Arlesienne Suit No 1, as well as the Roma Symphony, and La Jolie Fille de Perth Suite. The music is tender and since this may be one of the most profound things your children will listen to, allows a good way of breaking up the reading while providing a moment of reflection. The reading conveys perfectly the transition from the pilot’s rational panic as he finds himself stranded in the desert to the love which grows between him and the Prince.

Children will love, and instantly understand (before grown-ups do), the Prince’s adventures as he moves from tiny planet to tiny planet. My astronomically astute 8 year old had no difficulty dealing with the asteroids or the space characters and he picked up the irony and metaphor instantly, concurring with the Prince about ‘grown-ups.’ (I later attended a business meeting and felt much the same way – the story remains as valid and important today as ever). The story is amusing, rich, and pithy, as it moves between the dry and absurd world of a businessman, a geographer, a lamplighter, and . Gaden conveys the imagery very well, which is no mean feat, since this naïve drawings are one of the book’s many features. Gaden describes the drawings, the colours, and speaks so clearly, and yet intimately that the reader feels that he is confiding in them, and is drawn deeply into his story. His rich voice conveys the longing, the sadness, and the wonder of his experience.

Children younger than about 7 will probably find the story a little long and detailed to listen to, unless you are reading it yourself in very short bites, but anyone older, children or adult will love this CD, which is perfect before bed, on a long car trip or flight, or for quiet moments. It is engrossing and can be listened to in one hit, or in small chapter doses, where the music provides a good ‘end’ for each chapter. Adults may well be reminded of the way we subsume the important and meaningful under the urgent and demanding. Children will know instantly that this is a book for, and about them and will appreciate the way it understands and illuminates their world. There is nothing didactic about The Little Prince, but there is much to be learned, and if it has been some time since you’ve read this, an audio version is a lovely way to rediscover it. This audio version is particularly pleasurable, and will yield its charms, in a literary sense, in a vocal sense, and in a musical sense, for many listenings.

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