The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine De Saint-Exupery
written and illustrated by Peter Sis
2014 (Frances Foster Books)
Source: Orange County Public Library
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I knew Antoine De Saint-Exupery was the author of the Little Prince, which is one of the most beloved books of the twentieth century. I didn't know he was an aviation pioneer. The Pilot and the Little Prince focuses on his adventurous life on the ground and in the air. Peter Sis structures this book by providing a narrative at the bottom of the pages with a combination of illustrations, time lines, and other facts in the upper two-thirds of each page. Born in 1900, Antoine was daring at an early age. He built an unsuccessful flying machine at age 12 and also convinced a pilot to provide him with his first flight that same year. While performing his mandatory two years of military service, he learned how to pilot planes. Two years after leaving the military service, Antoine was hired by an airline that delivered mail. Flying gave him the adventure he had sought as a child. He flew in Europe, Africa, and South America delivering mail. Antoine was put in charge of an airfield in the desert and this solitude prompted him to begin writing. He wrote several well-received books for adults and continued his flying exploits including an attempt to fly from Paris to Saigon in 1935 which ended with a crash in North Africa. Antoine survived several crashes during his piloting career. With the onset of World War II in 1939, he was called up for military duty and photographed enemy locations from the air. Antoine left military service after France was occupied in 1940. Instead of staying in occupied France, he went to the United States where he wrote his most famous work. After being grounded for over two years, Antoine connected with his squadron again so he could continue flying. He set off on July 31, 1944 from Corsica to photograph enemy positions in southern France but did not return.
The illustrations in this book are amazing, but it's Peter Sis so that's expected. There is so much meaning in these pictures that you want to look again and again to catch things you might have missed the first time around. I would take The Pilot and the Little Prince, pair it with Sis's The Wall, and ask a group to find similarities and differences. In addition to the illustrations, I love how this book is structured and how it can be a model for students. I like the narrative at the bottom and the time line above. This book would be one that I would use to demonstrate how you can use a time line in a nonfiction narrative. Overall, it's a terrific book that highlights the extraordinary life of a famous author and demonstrates why Peter Sis is one of the best author/illustrators we have.