Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s fable about a wise, humble boy from Asteroid B-612 who befriends a stranded pilot has touched the lives of multiple generations of readers worldwide, with more than 150 million copies in print, in 260 languages and dialects. The Little Prince was first published in the U.S. on April 6, 1943, by Reynal & Hitchcock, which was absorbed in 1948 by Harcourt, Brace. To celebrate the book's 70th anniversary, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is bringing out three new editions: an anniversary gift set, a young adult paperback, and a paper-over-board edition of Joann Sfar’s graphic novel adaptation.
Born in Lyons, France, Saint-Exupéry wrote The Little Prince while living in the U.S. during a two-year, self-imposed exile from the Nazi occupation of his home country. A year after the book’s publication, the author disappeared over the Mediterranean while flying a reconnaissance mission for his French air squadron. He left behind a legacy that included eight additional books, among them Southern Mail, Night Flight, and Wind, Sand, and Stars.
New Editions Mark a Milestone
Released March 5, The Little Prince 70th Anniversary Gift Set packages a hardcover with a CD featuring actor Viggo Mortensen reading the unabridged text of Richard Howard’s 2000 translation from the French. A code included on the CD case enables visitors to the book’s Web site to download the narration onto computers and MP3 players. Other features of the site include a widget containing quotes from the classic and a clip of Mortensen’s recording.
Cynthia Platt, editor-at-large of HMH Books for Young Readers, edited the three anniversary editions and was in the studio when Mortensen recorded The Little Prince. “He is obviously a very talented actor, and his voice has such an emotional depth to it that it really transports you into the story,” she says. “We knew that he understood and appreciated the book, so he was an ideal choice to read it on the CD.”
The Little Prince paperback, also published on March 5, includes Saint-Exupéry’s original full-color art, a foreword by Wicked author Gregory Maguire, a reader’s guide, and a Common Core exemplar guide. This edition targets the book to the YA audience for the first time, says Platt. “The Little Prince is often given to younger children and adults,” she says. “But YA readers in between are often thinking in complex ways about the world, and there is so much interesting philosophy in the book that they can appreciate.” She adds that HMH art director Carol Chu “worked hard to come up with a simple, eye-catching design for the book that is perfect for the teenage audience.”
Long a fan of the title, Maguire was pleased that the publisher asked him to contribute a foreword to the new paperback edition. “The Little Prince is a little book, but what a little largeness it contains,” he says. “Not quite fable, nor allegory, nor fantasy, nor farce, though it is all those things, too. Like a poem by Emily Dickinson or any separate segment of the Alice books, The Little Prince dazzles gradually, indirectly, and with a different implication each time it is approached. As a writer, I’ve always liked approaching tales read in childhood to see what they reveal to me now. As a reader, I do the same.”
Due out on April 16, The Little Prince Graphic Novel is a new edition of Sfar’s adaptation, which has sold more than 500,000 copies since its 2010 publication in a jacketed hardcover format. “Joann Sfar is an incredibly talented artist and storyteller,” says Platt. “Though his original graphic novel found a large readership, with this more affordable paper-over-board edition, we hope to deepen its audience.”
HMH is supporting The Little Prince’s 70th anniversary tie-ins with national print and online advertising, promotion on BookRiot.com, and a social media campaign that includes posts on the publisher’s Tumblr site and The Little Prince Facebook page. The Facebook page has acquired more than 1.1 million fans since its July 2011 debut, a testament to The Little Prince’s enduring popularity.
The Little Prince 70th Anniversary Gift Set by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, CD recording by Viggo Mortensen. HMH, $24.99 Mar. ISBN 978-0-547-97048-6
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, foreword by Gregory Maguire. HMH, $9.99 trade paper Mar. ISBN 978-0-547-97884-0
The Little Prince Graphic Novel by Joann Sfar. HMH, $12.99 paper-over-board Apr. ISBN 978-0-547-33800-2