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Happy Birthday Little Prince! Upcoming events celebrate an 80-year-old masterpiece

Editor’s note: You may have seen him around town and on social media, a traveling prince making stops at familiar places around Northport. Part of the Northport Historical Society’s promotions for events celebrating the 80-year anniversary of the publishing of The Little Prince, the Antoine de Saint-Exupery masterpiece penned right here in Asharoken, the traveling Little Prince cutouts have been photographed on Main Street, inside the Engeman Theater and alongside the prince’s own statue at the Northport Public Library. Upcoming events to celebrate the book, and its Northport roots, include two written about in the following article, by Northport Historical Society Education Coordinator Carol Taylor.

It’s been 80 years since Antoine de Saint-Exupery published his iconic novella, The Little Prince. Written here at the Bevin House in Asharoken in the fall and winter of 1942, the wondrous tale of the fleeting gift of childhood innocence is the second most translated book after the Bible.

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

These “Words of the Wiser” are spoken by the story’s insightful Fox and summarize the lasting theme of The Little Prince.

While we celebrate Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s masterful storytelling, he was also a celebrated WWII hero – a daring, pioneering pilot, he rescued 14 downed pilots. According to a book written by a former Northport teacher and his English tutor, Miss Adele Breaux, only the War Department in Washington and his publisher knew he was in seclusion [in the Bevin House].

Antoine de Saint-Exupery was also an engineer who held ten patents. He was lost at sea in 1944.

On September 16, 2006, Yvette Cariou O’Brien, the official representative of the Espace Saint-Exupery in the United States, dedicated a bronze statue of the Little Prince on the grounds of the Northport Public Library. It was through her generosity and fundraising efforts that the statue was commissioned. In his prince’s garb, the child-size statue graces the library’s courtyard. It is a reminder that we adults must not ignore the minutia within our magical world: “Only the children are flattening their noses against the windowpanes.”

The Northport Historical Society proudly invites you to help us commemorate the 80th anniversary of the printing of this famed children’s book during our Little Prince Day on Sunday, March 26. The afternoon will feature two events:

SOLD OUT! Sunday at the Society, March 26 from 1:30-2:30pm
All are welcome to explore the story behind the second most translated book after the Bible, learn about Saint-Exupery's extraordinary life and his strong Northport ties. During this event, we will honor Yvette Cariou O'Brien, for her dedicated work in preserving the memory of Saint-Exupery.

NEW TIME AND LOCATION! Kids Craft Series, March 26 from 3-5pm at 199 Main Street
Children of all ages are invited to explore the world of the Little Prince by creating characters from the story. Kids will visit craft stations to color their characters and place in their own storybook, learn about the classic story, and take photos with our life-size Little Prince cut-out. Kids will leave with a gift bag including a $5 gift card to Einstein's Attic. Walk-ins welcome.

Both events are free and include refreshments and birthday cupcakes. Visit www.northporthistorical.org for more information.

Want more? Check out this 1971 New York Times article highlighting a book on the author written by Adèle Breaux, formerly a language teacher at Northport High School, and Saint-Exupery’s English tutor. An excerpt:

The author, his wife and a housekeeper stayed in a Victorian mansion known as Bevin House, which was built in about 1867. The large white house with a mansard roof is on Bevin Road and is visible today approaching Eatons Neck through Asharoken.

The house has a view of Northport Harbor and the Long Island Sound, and reminded the writer of his boyhood home, according to Miss Breaux.

She recalled that he said it was a “haven for writing, the best place I have ever had anywhere in my life.”