The Pilot and the Little Prince
Pilot and the Little Prince
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Peter Sís
ISBN 9780374380694
Frances Foster/FSG, 2014.
A New York Times 10 Best Illustrated Book
5 stars
Keywords: airplanes antoine-de france peter pilot-and-little-prince world-war-ii

The Pilot and the Little Prince
by Peter Sís

Like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the creator of The Little Prince, Peter Sís fled the occupation of his native land (chronicled in The Wall) and brings an emotional as well as historical context to his subject.

Sís melds the realistic and the fantastical, beginning with an image of a golden-haired baby floating above a map of his birthplace: "Long ago in France, at the turn of the last century, a little boy was born to be an adventurer." He populates the pages with seemingly far-out inventions of science fiction ("including flying machines"), then connects the fantastical with reality. A 12-year-old Antoine flew in a plane as a passenger, and knew he wanted to be a pilot; the book doubles as a subtle history of aviation, from inset images of the steam-powered Éole (1890, France), through to the Lockheed P-38 Lightning Antoine flew on a World War II reconnaissance mission. Sís shows us how many of Antoine's experiences--flying over vast stretches of unpopulated land, a crash landing in the Libyan desert where he meets a fox--make their way into The Little Prince. A wordless image of the ocean packs an emotional wallop after the loss of a friend and a country.

Sís achieves greatness in the way he sticks to the facts yet, for Little Prince fans, connects Saint-Exupéry's personal grief with both his hero's loss of his rose, and also the pilot narrator's loss of the little prince. This astonishing picture book gives young readers a firm foundation for entering The Little Prince and will lead older readers back to it with augmented appreciation.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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