Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince has become something of a children’s classic, translated from its original French into at least 190 languages, and ranking amongst the best-selling books ever. Little surprise then, that it might get converted into a graphic novel, and with Joann Sfar in control, surely there’s little that could go wrong.
However, the adaptation doesn’t live up to its promise. Saint- Exupéry’s inexpert but charming illustrations are part of the original’s innate appeal. While Sfar is clearly capable of drawing just as charmingly, his more professional aesthetic loses something of what’s special about the original.
The other problem is that the book has had to be abridged to fit it all in. Saint-Exupéry’s original text is too wordy to squeeze into a graphic format like this, relying on description that hasn’t completely translated into graphic terms. The visits the Little Prince makes to other planets, for example, lose a little of their power without the narration, which describes the emotion and expression of the characters better than Sfar manages through his illustrations. While Sfar portrays the Prince’s sadness with deep-welling tears in his enormous eyes, and puts raw emotion into some wordless sections showing the Prince and the pilot spending time together, the dialogue doesn’t convey the full range of Saint-Exupéry’s prose.
While not averse to adaptations that add something to the original, this only seems to have taken elements away from the source, detracting from it by diluting its power. It seems an unnecessary step to have taken to adapt the book in the first place, with the disappointing result only leading to further frustration.