What was essential about one golden-haired boy in love with flying becomes visible in Sís’ richly visual biographical portrait of French writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Sís covers the basics: Saint-Exupéry briefly studied architecture, then was a pioneer air mail pilot and began to publish his stories. Assigned to the mail station at Cape Juby in the Spanish Sahara, “he loved the solitude and being under millions of stars.” He spent two of the war years exiled in New York and finally returned to fly for France. Sís’ work invites readers to take time, to attend to the narrative in both the straightforward text and the nuanced, complex pictures. Antoine’s pilot friend Guillaumet advises him “to follow the face of the landscape”: A small plane flies over faces in the dunes (perhaps a nod to Saint-Exupéry’s Terres des Hommes). A desert fox greets one of Antoine’s several crashes, but instead of direct speculation about Saint-Exupéry’s inspiration for The Little Prince, Sís offers a multifaceted look at the author as adventurer and dreamer. Saint-Exupéry disappeared over the sea near Corsica in 1944: In Sís’ poignant illustration, the lines of the Lockheed P-38 become the wings and bicycle of a flying machine, a little like one Antoine made as a child.
Extraordinary and wonderful. (Picture book/biography. 6-12)