The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

by Peter Sís (Author) Peter Sís (Illustrator)

The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

Peter Sís's remarkable biography The Pilot and the Little Prince celebrates the author of The Little Prince, one of the most beloved books in the world. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was born in France in 1900, when airplanes were just being invented. Antoine dreamed of flying and grew up to be a pilot--and that was when his adventures began. He found a job delivering mail by plane, which had never been done before. He and his fellow pilots traveled to faraway places and discovered new ways of getting from one place to the next. Antoine flew over mountains and deserts. He battled winds and storms. He tried to break aviation records, and sometimes he even crashed. From his plane, Antoine looked down on the earth and was inspired to write about his life and his pilot-hero friends in memoirs and in fiction.

A Frances Foster Book

This title has Common Core connections.


Starred Review
Sís' works are less picture books than little miracles of design, a craft he now devotes to a biography of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince. That de Saint-Exupéry's life was interesting in its own right--growing up fatherless, pioneering ever-more dangerous airmail delivery routes, flying in WWII--is nearly besides the point, because Sís has created such a compelling, multilayered visual treat.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
*Extraordinary and wonderful.

Horn Book Magazine

Visually stunning, this accumulation of words, pictures, and design takes you to The Little Prince, or back to it, with fresh understanding and admiration.

Publishers Weekly

Following biographies of Darwin and Galileo, Sis celebrates legendary pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900-1944). As in The Tree of Life, Sis supplements a main narrative with time lines and insets, wrapping squint-inducing italics around dreamlike illustrations. Readers learn about Saint-Exupery's fascination with flight and roles as a mail and military pilot. The spreads allude to Melies' Le Voyage dans la lune and map Saint-Exupery's North African mail routes, without examining WWI or colonial history. Sis crafts expansive, nostalgic palimpsests, illustrating the hero's adventures with precision ink dots on sepia ground, yet he writes with emotional distance. Readers may wonder why Saint-Exupery's father, brother, and sister died young; why "hostile nomads" objected to his Moroccan outpost; why his wife has a Spanish name; and how he and his friends survived multiple plane crashes. Sis recounts astounding feats in an offhand tone (two fliers landed their plane "on a ledge" in the Andes, then "rocked it until it went over the edge and started up"). Gorgeous, densely imagined, yet fragmented in its telling, this narrative will send readers beyond The Little Prince to hear more of this mind-boggling story. Ages 5-9. (May)

Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 4 Up--As in his works about other restless souls who charted their courses by the stars and pondered big questions (Columbus, Galileo, Darwin), Sis's picture-book biography of the famous French aviator and author comprises multiple layers. Trim but informative sentences ground the pages where text appears ("When he was four years old, his father died unexpectedly. The boy wondered, Where did he go?"). Sensitive readers will follow that question into the heart of the story that encompasses Saint-Exupery's childhood, passion for flying, experiences with military and commercial planes, multiple crashes, risk-taking temperament, friendships, marriage, and publications. Dates, places, events, and exploits swirl around smaller images framed cleverly with bubbles, sequential panels, maps, or airplanes. The emotional content comes through the changing colors and compositions of Sis's exquisite double spreads. Many are wordless, as when the pilot stands at the edge of the vast turquoise ocean; above the horizon, twinkling yellow stars form the curls and eyes of the title character of The Little Prince. Sis is as adept at drama (the red paint bleeding from the sky as the Germans bomb France) as he is at subtle humor (an aerial view of Manhattan portrays the city as an alligator-shaped landmass emerging from a sewer). Slyly inserted referents, from an elephant inside a "hat" to a Melies moon, add meaning. Sis's handling of the aviator's last flight and disappearance strikes just the right notes of mystery, majesty, and quiet wonder that connect the life and longings of Saint-Exupery to those of his young, fictional friend. Brilliant bookmaking.--Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

Copyright 2014 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"*Sis' mystically touched style enhances this biography of famous French aviator and author Saint-Exupery." —BCCB, STARRED REVIEW

Peter Sís
Peter Sís is the internationally renowned author and/or illustrator of many books for children. He received Caldecott Honors for Starry Messenger, Tibet Through the Red Box, and Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain. He is the recipient of the 2012 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration and the 2015 Society of Illustrators Lifetime Achievement Award, and has also been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. He has lived in and around New York City since 1984.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr)
Publication date
May 20, 2014
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