Children’s Books, Adult Lessons

Aug 15 2012 @ 6:02pm

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by Zoë Pollock

Maria Konnikova provides a wonderful meditation on the philosophical lessons hidden in children’s books. In The Little Prince, she argues, “you find as clear a commentary on everything that’s wrong with modern life—and what can be done to fix it—as you would in the most biting social satire”:

Think back on those planets the boy visits on his trip to earth. Each inhabitant offers a profound lesson on how easily we can go wrong in our life choices. There’s the red-faced gentleman, who has “never smelled a flower…looked at a star… [or] loved anyone.” Why? He’s been too busy telling everyone that he’s a serious man–and acting the part. For, as we learn later on, he is a businessman. A businessman whose business is counting the stars, so that he might own them—but so preoccupied is he with the counting that he forgets to enjoy his wealth. … The little prince reminds us to have the proper perspective on the world around us: to be attentive and present, to know why we do what we do, to remain ever-curious, ever-inquisitive, ever-questioning, to remember the things that matter–and those that don’t. A child can’t realize the significance of the lesson, because it hasn’t yet been lost on him.

(Image from a Schaeffer Bock Beer advertisement by Dr. Seuss. From the Dr. Seuss Collection, MSS 230, Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD via The Millions)