I feel confident that many of us will look back on 2014, once it’s all said and done, and acknowledge that Peter Sís plus Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was one of the best possible pairings. In The Pilot and the Little Prince, Sís explores the writer and aviator’s life, from childhood to death, with engaging reverence and intricate, detailed illustrations for which he’s won multiple awards.
It was an exciting time for science and discovery when Saint-Exupéry entered the world in 1900. After detailing his childhood and home life, Sís goes on to explore his adoration for flight, his occupational history, contributions to war efforts, travels around the world, writings and so much more.
Sís superbly maximizes the narration by filling his spreads—many of them breathtaking in their beauty, particularly those related to World War II and The Little Prince—with text that participates in each tableau. It scales mountains, swirls in waves and covers maps. Images are teeming with symbolism (Saint-Exupéry’s birth on page one depicts a swaddled baby with wings, suspended over a globe), and Sís fills the book with evocative art and words that take readers in many directions—but never overwhelming, thanks to Sís’ superb sense of design.
Saint-Exupéry’s dogged determination and passions for life and learning are communicated with veracity and an infectious energy that propel the story. It is a tale bursting with wonder. Given the whimsy and poetry of Saint-Exupéry’s most famous work, The Little Prince, it’s a joyous thing to see Sís take on the aviator’s life. In the hands of an author-illustrator with such a rich imagination, the story soars.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.