First and foremost, the fact that The Return of the Young Prince by A. G. Roemmers is advertised as “the long-awaited sequel to The Little Prince” did it a huge disservice. It gave A. G. Roemmers a near impossible task. There are not many stories as widely read and cherished by adults and children alike as Antoine De Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 classic, The Little Prince. Every time I mentioned that book in my class, the sight of enthusiastic hands shooting up with eyes that lit up like shiny stars, is a sight to behold. The book can be picked up at different points in one’s life and the thought-provoking allegory of the human condition will still cut right to the heart. This is one of those very few venerated books that I never want anybody to touch, let alone write a sequel to it. Roemmers definitely had a mountain to climb and it was an unenviable task. But did it work?
Even princes from faraway planets eventually grow up. No longer content with his tiny planet, the young prince sets off once again to explore the universe. And so begins another remarkable journey into the secrets and joys of living a meaningful life.
I would be lying if I say it didn’t. My wife and my students are the testament that the story and life lessons got to me because I would read them selected passages from it. Even though I could easily devour the novel in a day, I chose to read only two chapters a day just to let the life lessons wash over me and ponder over the words. I find the prose serene and zen, filled with lots of nuggets of deep wisdom and keen observations on current times. The accompanying illustrations by award-winning artist Pietari Posti, are simple yet beautiful. I especially love the colours used in the cover as can be gleaned from above. But I could love this so much is because I chose to see this as a standalone rather than a sequel. If I had not been able to do that I could foresee a whole lot of problems. For instance, I will tell you that unlike the original the story and the lessons do not have a symbiotic bond. I could literally feel that the author thought of the lessons first and then proceeded to weave a simple narrative through them. I could also tell you that the story is very weak and lacks the wondrous humanity of the original. It is as if having the little prince ask questions gives creative licence for the author to jackhammer his sententious philosophies and religious beliefs into my brain. Yes, it does feel at times almost over-written. However, if you can read this on its own merit, I am sure that like me, you will discover many gems. I will leave you with one… I find the words managed to capture an elusive aspect of life called memory so eloquently.