Keeping company with The Little Prince

For some people, the Little Prince is like a childhood friend rediscovered after years apart. This was true for Emeline, now 34, a teacher, children’s holiday camp director and friend of the Little Prince.

Emeline first encountered The Little Prince at the age of four or five, by way of the recording made by Gérard Philipe. His warm, deep voice was engraved forever in a little girl’s memory. At the age of seven, she was learning to read and plunged eagerly into the book which, for her, was a fairy tale.

Emeline the teacher
Much later, by now a qualified teacher, Emeline was grappling with finding the best way to teach reading in the classroom. The Internet proved a valuable forum for discussing this issue with others, and realising just how much Saint-Exupéry’s text had affected and still affects people of all ages. She used to exchange favourite quotes with friends, and gradually began collecting objects linked to the Little Prince (stationery, editions in English, games, etc.) Teaching a combined-level class of 6 to 8 year-olds, Emeline was looking for a book that all the children would be able to understand. That book proved to be The Little Prince. She played sections of the recording from her childhood to the class. Then she asked each child to find the meaning of different excerpts and to identify the words they did not know. Her pupils discussed friendship, the relationships between children and adults, how best to tame the world and what is essential and cannot be seen.  Emeline now has a better understanding of the educational value of the book: « Year 6 pupils once put on a stage adaptation of The Little Prince. The characters, the themes, the work of the imagination: everything offers such rich learning resources… There’s no end to what teachers can mine from this text. »

Emeline the organiser
In 2005, Emeline took on the task of organising a holiday trip for 6 to 9 year-olds for an organisation called Aventure Scientifique. Her thoughts naturally turned to The Little Prince. The Saint-Exupéry estate gave permission for the use of the text and illustrations, and even invited Aventure Scientifique to become a partner in the celebrations marking the Prince’s 60th birthday. The adventure holiday is based on a simple principle: the children embark on a week-long search for the Little Prince. Dressed up as a pilot, the organiser leads the apprentice scientists on a voyage to various « themed » planets (Planet of Water, Planet of Astronomy, etc.) « inhabited » by counsellors disguised as characters from the book. While continuing the search for their new friend, the children engage in scientific experiments and discoveries. The whole week is given over to imagination, discovery and, of  course, to The Little Prince, a copy of which is presented to each child at the end of their odyssey.

When asked what the book has to say to us today, Emeline speaks of a message that is universal in scope. It is about reaching out to others, but also about the discovery of a world in which everything that exists is temporary, everything is ephemeral. Emeline, meanwhile, has bought a push-along sheep on wheels, which is now hidden away in its box at the back of a cupboard: waiting for the children she hopes to have, one day…