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The Little Prince: Truth in Metaphor

Updated on August 23, 2017

A Timeless Tale

Antoine de Saint Exupery's author's note on The Little Prince-- "not for grownups" -- is a bit facetious. On the one hand, The Little Prince does portray 'grownups' as folks who go around foolishly pursuing wrong values; still the story themes (and the subtle ironies) are best appreciated by those selfsame adults. The Little Prince is probably my all-time favorite book, and yet... that was hardly my first response. I remember pulling it down from a library shelf in elementary school: I didn't like the pictures, I wasn't particularly captivated by the story, and I set it back on the shelf. Perhaps I was too young to appreciate the metaphor; perhaps I just lacked an adult guide.

I was reintroduced to The Little Prince in my early twenties when I read a memoir, One Child, by Tori Hayden. Hayden described reading The Little Prince to a brilliant but troubled child. Key scenes from the book were reprinted in Hayden's book. Thus I finally read about the fox who pleads with a little boy to tame him, then cries when it is time for the child to get on with his journey. I learned how the Little Prince laments that the taming did the fox no good whatsoever, but the fox tells him oh no, it has done him good. The fox shares some secrets about love and attachment and responsibility... big, big ideas for such a slim little book.

At that point, I had to read the full story of the little prince who leaves his home planet because his rose (a personified flower) does not seem to love him the way he loves her. And at that point, I was captivated indeed, enchanted by the parable of the mystical and wide-eyed little observer of human nature who learns some lessons about love and -- not without some pain -- finds his way back home.

Opening image is by the author of the page

The Little Prince
The Little Prince

Plot, Theme, and Metaphor

In The Little Prince

The Little Prince is narrated by an adult -- an aviator who is concerned with "matters of consequence". Stranded in the Sahara, the pilot is shocked to hear a little person asking him to draw a sheep. The little person, it turns out, wants the sheep to take back to his planet: a house-sized asteroid that has three volcanoes, a talking rose, and baobab shoots. (The little baobabs must be pulled out before they take hold -- either that, or they need to be eaten by a little grazing animal of some sort.) To the narrator's surprise, the little prince, who is not satisfied with any of the sheep drawings, is delighted by a picture of a closed box with (supposedly) a sheep inside.

The backstory tells how the Little Prince left his planet because he had grown disenchanted with his rose; she was boastful and did not seem to appreciate all he did for her. On his journey, The Little Prince encountered a number of small planets, each with a single inhabitant who represented some negative aspect of human nature: pride, greed, desire for power. When a self-important geographer told him that his rose was ephemeral -- subject to quick disappearance -- he experienced some regret about leaving his planet behind. Still, he continued on to Earth, where he made the acquaintance of a fox.

Some of the most beautiful lines in the story are uttered by the fox. Probably the most famous is, "One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes." This is one of the book's central themes, and one that was introduced in a playful way early in the story. (One can imagine that the little prince was able to see the sheep in the box because he saw with his heart!)

The fox also introduces taming as a metaphor for creating meaningful bonds. The fox couldn't just starting out playing with the boy right away because (as he explained) he wasn't yet tame. There is a bit of humor here. When he first uses the word 'tame', it sounds like he is using it in the sense that we usually use the word. However, he is talking about something larger. This fox is not your average wild creature -- nor yet your typical 'crafty' storybook fox. He appears as a voice of wisdom.

A favorite bit of fox-wisdom is, "It is the time that you wasted on your rose that makes it unique in all the world." How true! We don't love because something or someone is perfect; if we did, love, too, would be ephemeral... and not love at all. The value we find in another can be created by what we pour into them: blood, sweat, and tears. The fox, who is so knowledgeable, tells the prince also that one carries with them forever what they have 'tamed' or loved -- and that so, too, they become responsible for it.

The Little Prince in turn has much to teach to his next companion, the book's own awe-struck narrator. Soon, however, they too must part. The pilot succeeds in fixing his plane, and thus can return home. The Little Prince, though, must have a rendezvous with a snake in order to be sent back where he came. "Don't come with me," he advises the narrator (who ignores his words). He warns the narrator that he will look like he is suffering and dying, but the truth is something else. The narrator assumes he does make it home, as there is no body left behind.

Although Antoine de Saint Exupery's illustrations are quite simple, they are poignant. One is burned in my mind: the image of the Little Prince going to meet up with the snake. It represents the strength that comes from really loving. I think that attachment has gotten a bad rap, that pop culture too easily dismisses it as weakness... a thought that I would not likely have had if I had read the book at eight or nine!

Video: The Little Prince and the Fox

Here it is: the most moving scene in the book narrated by a master storyteller. The little prince forges a friendship with a fox and learns what it means to be tamed.

"IT'S THE TIME YOU WASTED ON YOUR ROSE THAT MAKES IT UNIQUE IN ALL THE WORLD"

Lesson Plans For The Little Prince - Philosophy and Big Ideas

The Little Prince can be an excellent book for developing critical literacy skills. I have read this book aloud to elementary school children, and feel that they are in the best position to appreciate it when it's done as a read-aloud. Older students are better able to 'go it alone' but guided study can still help them appreciate the metaphors.

70th Anniversary Gift Set

The Little Prince is the 20th best-selling book of all time, and for good reason. The language is simple, yet poetic, and the message appeals to our inner idealism and goodness. Thus the book speaks to to generation after generation of adults and children alike. Originally written in French, it has been translated into many languages.

There are two translations readily available in English. The first was by Katherine Woods in 1943, the second by Richard Howard in 2000.

This is one of Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt's 70th anniversary releases,a gift set featuring audio and text. The hardback book and audio are the Richard Howard version.

The Little Prince Lands on Earth - The Little Prince, upon landing on Earth, at first believes the whole planet is altogether dry and pointed.

The Little Prince Lands
The Little Prince Lands

Students can discuss their own first impressions of people and places. Have they ever acted like The Little Prince did when he first beheld our planet?

Who is The Little Prince written for?

Is The Little Prince primarily for children or for grownups?

The Little Prince Activity Book

The Little Prince Book of Fun and Adventure strives to get young kids into the character and story. I understand that there is a dry erase pen, and some activities can be done over and over.

The Little Prince Book of Fun and Adventure
The Little Prince Book of Fun and Adventure

There are three reviews on the book, two favorable. The unfavorable one came from someone who bought a used copy and found (to their surprise) that it had been scribbled on.

 

Do You Have a Favorite Translation?

If you truly love a book, you know: Those turns of phrase matter. Slight differences in translation can alter the mood and the meaning in a text. I am most acutely aware of the differences in the key scenes with the fox. While I'm not fond of the reference to the time 'wasted' on the rose -- that one little word! -- the Katherine Wood version is otherwise my favorite.

Which edition do you prefer?

More from Antoine de Saint-Exupery - Especially for Grownups

Antoine de Saint-Exupery was very good at the one-liner, and at summing up life truths with deceptively simple words. This collection draws from The Little Prince as well as from the wisdom of Saint-Exupery's adult books. If you believe that a lot of your learning came in kindergarten -- on the monkey bars as opposed to the corporate ladder -- you'll probably find quite a bit more here that rings true.

Share them here.

Thoughts on the Little Prince?

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    • profile image

      Beverly 13 months ago

      The first time I read "Le Petit Prince" was in high school. I read it in French. I've read it in English, also. I love the quote "on ne voit bien qu' avec le coeur, l'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux". I have this quote tattooed on my upper arm. I'm going to have to read this book again. I didn't get the allegories as the reviewer did.

    • PaigSr profile image

      PaigSr 4 years ago from State of Confussion

      Many years ago when I was at summer camp we had an hour each day where we just rested. Our counselor read this book to us during the week we were there. That was the first time that I had ever heard of this book.

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      lawyer-marketing 4 years ago

      Master piece !!!

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 4 years ago

      Time for me to re-read this one, I think. :)

    • knitstricken profile image

      knitstricken 4 years ago

      Bless You! And you didn't even sneeze! How curious! :o) I just stopped by to draw you a sheep, I mean, er, leave you a SquidAngel blessing! :o) Blessed!

    • JeffGilbert profile image

      JeffGilbert 4 years ago

      I remember reading this in French back in high school A great little masterpiece... :)

    • profile image

      Lazuribooks 4 years ago

      Dear friends of the Little Prince Family,

      A new edition is born !

      Published new edition of The Little Prince (Mingrelian Tchitche Mapaskiri) only 350 copies.

      Best regards lazuribooks@gmail.com

    • profile image

      Lazuribooks 4 years ago

      Dear friends of the Little Prince Family,

      A new edition is born !

      Published new edition of The Little Prince (Mingrelian Tchitche Mapaskiri) only 350 copies.

      Best regards lazuribooks@gmail.com

    • choosehappy profile image

      Vikki 4 years ago from US

      Leaving some angel dust....really amazing job here.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Stopping back to bless this wonderful lens! :)

    • Emmie16 profile image

      Emmie16 4 years ago

      I have never read the Little Prince, not even in my children's literature class. I will now though! Thank you for sharing.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Lovely Story one of my favourites for my kids.

    • Kumar P S profile image

      Kumar P S 5 years ago

      Great Lens ! Very well Presented.

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 5 years ago from Ljubljana

      Very special book for very special moments.

    • Teapixie LM profile image

      Tea Pixie 5 years ago

      I was fortunate to be involved in introducing reading in English to young French Immersions students. Not only did I love recommending this book, it was given to me as a gift by a very, very good friend, when we closed the library door for the last time. It's a book for everyone, at any age.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      nice stuff thanks for sharing

    • Rosaquid profile image

      Rosaquid 5 years ago

      The Little Prince has helped me as an adult to better understand children.

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      JerseyJames 5 years ago

      Enjoyed reading your lens.

    • MayaIxchel profile image

      MayaIxchel 5 years ago

      I love this book! I have read it in English, French, and Spanish. There is a theory that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry based his book on our town when he crashed his plane in Guatemala and stayed in Antigua (the city of roses) during his recovery and talked about the three volcanoes. I also love that France had his drawings on their currency! Great lens, thanks for sharing!

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 5 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Great job. I'm going to share it on All Things Education on Tumbler.

    • Melissa Miotke profile image

      Melissa Miotke 5 years ago from Arizona

      I love this story!

    • YogaAngel profile image

      YogaAngel 5 years ago

      I have loved this book since I was a kid! There even used to be a cartoon! Read it in college English class too!!!

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      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Popping back in the sprinkle some angel dust on this great lens! :)

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Stopping back to sprinkle some angel dust on this well deserving lens (now that I can!). :)

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      sherioz 5 years ago

      When I taught sex and family education to sixth graders, I would start one of my lessons with reading the part about taming the fox - it got them to think about how people develop relationships and what intimacy means. Enjoyed your lens.

    • UKGhostwriter profile image

      UKGhostwriter 5 years ago

      I love the illustrations as well as a great story

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      So you are a teacher and a writer, as was my high school English teacher. Your lens has brought back a very pleasant memory. The Little Prince was required reading and my teacher introduced us to the figure of speech knows as a metaphor.

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      seemarahate 5 years ago

      lovely picture ...

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Seems like I have missed reading this gorgeous book that looks like a must read.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      I introduced my husband to this book a few years ago and it instantly became one of his favorites, too. I was only familiar with the original French version before I purchased an English translation version for him. The translation was excellent, but I still prefer the original.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      this is all-time favorite book. it has the story and the message, add the awesomely drawn pictures by Exupery himself.

    • JoyfulReviewer profile image

      JoyfulReviewer 5 years ago

      Enjoyed your overview of this classic. Glad to see you included lesson plans and other resources. ~~Blessed~~

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      This is one of my favorite books too, and we read it in French class as well.

    • vinodkpillai lm profile image

      vinodkpillai lm 5 years ago

      Loved your lens about my favorite book. Thanks!

    • jethrosas profile image

      Jethro 5 years ago from Philippines

      I think I should read it again. Thanks for this lens. :)

    • NoYouAreNot profile image

      NoYouAreNot 5 years ago

      You have a wonderful taste in books ;)

    • karMALZEKE profile image

      karMALZEKE 5 years ago

      You did a wonderful job writing this lens. I like a lot of good "meat" in a lens. Nice writing!

    • Aquavel profile image

      Aquavel 5 years ago

      The Little Prince (and Lewis Caroll's two "Alice" books) are my favorite books of all time! Definitely for children of all ages!

    • TTMall profile image

      TTMall 5 years ago

      Loved Your Lens! You really put a lot of good information in it.

    • ReviewsfromSandy profile image

      Sandy Mertens 5 years ago from Wisconsin

      Wonderful lens.

    • jethrosas profile image

      Jethro 5 years ago from Philippines

      I want to re-read it because the first time I read it was when I studied in college. Anyway, thanks for sharing this. :)

    • jethrosas profile image

      Jethro 5 years ago from Philippines

      I love this great book! I'm glad I found this. :)

    • ReviewsfromSandy profile image

      Sandy Mertens 5 years ago from Wisconsin

      Great lens.

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      Edutopia 5 years ago

      Great lens and introduction to the story. Good job.

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      Edutopia 5 years ago

      Great lens and introduction to the story. Good job.

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      ifuturz 5 years ago

      Nice Lens to Read

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      looks like i need to read

    • profile image

      mellie4 5 years ago

      fantastic lens!

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      julieannbrady 5 years ago

      Hmmm, I must say, "what an intelligent page!" And, doesn't "The Little Prince" story of portraying "'grownups' as folks who go around foolishly pursuing wrong values," just a real slice of reality?

    • Aquavel profile image

      Aquavel 5 years ago

      Love the Little Prince, his journeys and adventures, and his love for his rose. Amazing illustrations and metaphors too! One of my lifetime favorites!

    • askdaguru lm profile image

      askdaguru lm 5 years ago

      great story

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      Terrie_Schultz 5 years ago

      I haven't read it for many years, now I want to read it again!

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I loved the book as a child. Definitely think it's time to read it again with "grownup" eyes.

    • canoz profile image

      Heather Bradford 5 years ago from Canada

      I respect the reputation and following that The Little Prince Has. I got it out of the library to share with my kids on recommendation but they didn't enjoy it and I couldn't get into it either. Perhaps it's something I will re-visit at another time and love?!

    • jeremecausing profile image

      Jereme Causing 5 years ago from Philippines

      Very nice lens.. this is one of my favorite books :) The first time I read the little prince when I was 13, I also didn't understand it at first not until I have grown up a bit.. I read the book when I got to college and I realized that it was a very nice book :) I've read it a lot of times ..

    • oxfordian profile image

      oxfordian 5 years ago

      I was first introduced to the original French verson, Le Petit Prince by my mother and I still have my old, worn little book. Over the years, I collected many different editions and versions of the story, including, last year, a pop-up version. You did such an admirable job representing the story here; it makes me want to take it off the shelf and read it again.

    • kathysart profile image

      kathysart 5 years ago

      one of my fav books.. luv it

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 6 years ago from Colorado

      Congrats on your new Purple Star! Outstanding. :-)

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 6 years ago from Colorado

      I am at a point in my life where I need to rediscover the Little Prince. Thank you for this exceptional review. *Blessed* and appreciated.

    • juditpaton profile image

      Iudit Gherghiteanu 6 years ago from Ozun

      i did not like it as child and i did discover it much later, as parent. thanks for this beautiful memento of the Little Prince in my life.

    • mercin12 profile image

      mercin12 6 years ago

      I have used quotes from the Little Prince in academic papers I have written. There is such wisdom in the book!

    • WayneDave LM profile image

      WayneDave LM 6 years ago

      I would say it is for both children and adults. Great lens though. Thanks a lot for sharing this.

    • EMangl profile image

      EMangl 6 years ago

      What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well

    • ananimoss2 profile image

      ananimoss2 6 years ago

      I was in 4th grade when I read it first. I have sisters who are much older than I am, and they were reading it, and the book looked like a picture book. Of course, I didn't understand much at that time, but it has been my favorite ever since. Every time I read it, I find something else...like a hidden treasure!

    • marigoldina profile image

      Heather B 6 years ago

      I came across this lens by chance. I've never read the Little Prince, but family and friends have raved about it. I now feel inspired to pick it up.

    • natashaely profile image

      natashaely 6 years ago

      I love this book, I read it a long time ago but having read this page it's made me want to dig out my copy and read it again. A fantastic review, I love the personal touch. I also love the pages aboves, The Velveteen Rabbit, hich has been printed so many times and should be a must for all children and The Ugly duckling which I have not only read, had on tape and seen various versions but sadly (can't believe I admit this) have it on record in the song version! Great page, happily added to my library!

    • Paul Ward profile image

      Paul 6 years ago from Liverpool, England

      A blast from the past indeed! I put off reading TLP when I first gheard about it and evetually read it after finding out more about Antoine de Saint Exupery - that casts a different light on mch of what he writes.

    • whyamiwealthy profile image

      whyamiwealthy 6 years ago

      If I were to choose the Top 10 books in my list, the Little Prince will be in my Top 10 books of all that I have read. Every time I read and re-read it, I find some new valuable insight. How this book touches my life just grows and grows as I get older and experience more in life. An excellent lens and a great topic to choose!

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      This book became one of my favorites when I was a young adult. It's been a good 30 years since I read it. Maybe it's time to do it again.

    • Charmcrazey profile image

      Wanda Fitzgerald 6 years ago from Central Florida

      I've never read the book. I used to watch the cartoon though. Gosh I'm shallow. This is a great review of it and I'll see if my kid's copy is around somewhere. Sounds like it's worth reading.

    • Teddi14 LM profile image

      Teddi14 LM 6 years ago

      I have had a copy for years and never read it. I have a 9 year old son and after reading this lens I think I will read it with him this summer.

    • Krafick profile image

      Krafick 6 years ago

      One of my favorites.

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 6 years ago from New York

      Wonderful lens on an ageless, timeless book. Blessings. Your lens is now featured on our tribute page to blessed lenses: Wing-ing it on Squidoo. (You can see it at http://www.squidoo.com/lenses-blessed-by-this-squi...

    • Philippians468 profile image

      Philippians468 6 years ago

      this is one of the simplest yet deepest book i've ever read! cheers

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      careermom 6 years ago

      I've not read this book in years. Thank you for reminding me of it.

    • UKGhostwriter profile image

      UKGhostwriter 6 years ago

      what a fantastic lens!!

    • MelissaInTheSky profile image

      MelissaInTheSky 6 years ago

      The Little Prince has always been my Bible. Books are my friends, but THAT book has been my heart and soul. My sense of family, my faith, my dreams, my life's work - my very identity came to life the day I discovered The Little Prince. In the 35 years since, I have added to my list of literary blessings, but that book will always remain my guiding light. :)

      Thanks for sharing a great lens!

    • sheilamarie78 profile image

      sheilamarie78 6 years ago

      When my son was in fifth grade, he played the Little Prince in the local high school production, with his older brother as the pilot. That is a very special memory for me.

    • jvsper63 profile image

      jvsper63 6 years ago

      Lovely story. I remember it from when I was young. Nice lens Joni

    • Hairdresser007 profile image

      James Jordan 6 years ago from Burbank, CA

      I love this story. I have it from my childhood. It really resonated with me and was a great way to look at love!

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      wadestar 7 years ago

      nice lens thank you.

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 7 years ago

      Next week they will show the play of the Little Prince in my daughter's school. Will review this with her before that, to help her appreciate it more!

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      darciefrench lm 7 years ago

      Beautiful lens; it brought me back to the questions of my childhood. Many blessings to you, including a squid angel blessing.

    • ZablonMukuba profile image

      ZablonMukuba 7 years ago

      great book, its awesome, he loved his rose

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 7 years ago

      Thumbs up on a great lens. I read this book when I was in high school.

    • jp1978 profile image

      jp1978 7 years ago

      Hi, this is my favorite book! Although I like the other translation better, where yours says

      "One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes." (Richard Howard translation, usually blue cover)

      I prefer

      "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye." (KAtherine Woods translation, usually white cover)

    • profile image

      kimmanleyort 7 years ago

      You know, I remember my Mom loved this book, but I don't remember ever reading it. I think it's about time I did. Lovely review.

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      Light-in-me 7 years ago

      Ahh I remember the Little Prince, very nice lens.

      Thanks for sharing,

      Robin :)

    • JakTraks profile image

      Jacqueline Marshall 7 years ago from Chicago area

      Lovely lens about a lovely book.

    • ZablonMukuba profile image

      ZablonMukuba 7 years ago

      i really like this book you have put it into perspective

    • hlkljgk profile image

      hlkljgk 7 years ago from Western Mass

      well done. thanks for the views.

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      GrowWear 7 years ago

      A loving review of The Little Prince.

    • profile image

      resabi 7 years ago

      Hard to resist a lens on a book that's one of my favorites also. Very nice job. I have a suggested addition to your other books with big ideas section: The 100 Dresses, by Eleanore Estes. Hmmm... Come to think of it, I might have to do a lens on it. Lol. Thanks for that idea also.

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      myraggededge 7 years ago

      Excellent review of a classic book. I adore the 'time wasted on your rose' quote... indeed it is the essence of ourselves that we give/offer/put into things (work, art, people, anything) that makes them so unique and special. Blessed by a Squid angel :-)

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I love the book and used it for my lessons before. I still read it once in a while just to remind me about some of its truths.

    • Sharon Weaver profile image

      Sharon Weaver 7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      This is a classic and your lens gets people thinking about the lessons it contains. Good stuff.

    • KarenTBTEN profile image
      Author

      KarenTBTEN 7 years ago

      It's a good experience to reread the book as an adult -- and, yes, it would be cool to see the book your friend is working on, too.

    • AnxiousAthena LM profile image

      AnxiousAthena LM 7 years ago

      OMG, This is awesome! I LOVED that book as a child! I def have to re-read now...you must have spent a Lo............ng time doing this lens, there is so much stuff to see and do...great job, 5 stars! My friend Dan is doing something very similar to this book. he is writing a children's book with adult-ish themes...let me know if you want to see his work in progress and I'll send you a link :)