The Pilot and the Little Prince
The Pilot and the Little Prince
Written and illustrated by Peter Sís
Published in 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
ISBN # 978-0374380694
Grades K and up
Aviator, pioneer, inventor, war hero: In The Pilot and the Little Prince, we learn that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was all this and more. With characteristic charm, wonder, and grandeur, award-winning author/illustrator Peter Sís’s picture book biography pays homage to the beloved author of the classic book The Little Prince. Born at the turn of the twentieth century, Saint-Exupéry grew up in a world that was taking off on new adventures and using new kinds of transport to do so. Sís captures this rapidly progressing world and innovative spirit with multi-layered textual and visual delight. The book’s main text lines the bottom of the pages, filled with the kinds of questions and tidbits about Saint-Exupéry’s life that would tantalize a child. Floating and swirling above those words in whimsical illustration, Sís offers more fascinating nuggets about Saint-Exupéry’s life and the historical era in which he lived. But perhaps most mesmerizing and astute are the illustrations themselves: clever, humorous, fantastical, and evocative renderings of a child’s perspective of Saint-Exupéry ’s life. Together, these elements provide, against a subtle chronicle of the impact of aviation on the world, a rich and surprising account of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s rise from determined dreamer to celebrated author. Ideal for read-alouds, small group exploration, or individual entertainment, The Pilot and the Little Prince won’t stay on your bookshelf for long.
Teaching Ideas and Invitations
Grades K and up
Art Imitating Life. Read aloud The Little Prince to your students (or have them read it themselves), and then read The Pilot and the Little Prince. Have them identify parts in Sís’s biography that resemble events and experiences in The Little Prince. You can have them chart this information to show the connections and inspiration explicitly, or encourage students to script and role play an interview with Saint-Exupéry that explains the similarities between his life and his book.
The Impact of Aviation. Sís writes that Saint-Exupéry jumped at every chance to be part of the new directions and opportunities that aviation developments presented. Use some of the websites listed below in Further Explorations to research the impact of aviation on human life more fully. How did it aid or hinder communication and relations among peoples and nations? How did it advance knowledge about our planet? Have students then create multimedia presentations of what they learned.
Sís’s Pioneers. The Pilot and the Little Prince is the latest picture book biography by Sís about a noteworthy figure whose restless and adventuresome spirit helped pioneer new eras in world history. Have students read Sís’s other biographies of these people, such as Gallileo, Christopher Columbus, and Charles Darwin (see Books below). Compare and contrast how Sís frames these pioneers through his text and illustrations. How does each medium work to tell a particular kind of story about each man? After this exercise, have students write and illustrate a picture book biography about another pioneer in history, attempting to emulate Sís’s style.
Continuing the Story. While The Pilot and the Little Prince ends with the mystery of Saint-Exupéry’s final flight, we do know a little bit more about what may have happened. Have students research the news articles that reported the discovery of evidence in the waters south of Marseille, France, as well as other reports of found wreckage (see Further Explorations for some websites). Challenge students to put the pieces together to determine what happened during that last flight, and to perhaps continue writing the rest of the picturebook biography. You may want to have students read Shelley Tanaka’s Amelia Earhart: The Legend of the Lost Aviator as a paired text.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry exhibit at the Air and Space Museum of France (website in French)
Documentary – The Flying Years – Aviation History
Tanaka, S. (2008). Amelia Earhart: The legend of the lost aviator. Ill. by D. Craig. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers.
About Grace Enriquez
Grace is an associate professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former English Language Arts teacher, reading specialist, and literacy consultant, she teaches and writes about children’s literature, critical literacies, and literacies and embodiment. Grace is co-author of The Reading Turn-Around and co-editor of Literacies, Learning, and the Body.
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