The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship

( 2 )


When the Czar proclaims that he will marry his daughter to the man who brings him a flying ship, the Fool of the World sets out to try his luck and meets some unusual companions on the way.


The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship is the winner of the 1969 Caldecott Medal.

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When the Czar proclaims that he will marry his daughter to the man who brings him a flying ship, the Fool of the World sets out to try his luck and meets some unusual companions on the way.


The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship is the winner of the 1969 Caldecott Medal.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A delightful picture-book version of the Russian folktale about the simple third son who, through the magical powers of the Listener, Swift-goer, Drinker, and others, performs the tasks set by the Czar and wins the princess. The handsome illustrations which fill the pages with animation and gleaming colors have a folk character and Russian flavor." —Starred, Booklist
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374324421
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 1/28/1968
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 481,916
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: 810L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.54 (w) x 9.35 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Arthur Ransome (1884-1967) was an English author and journalist, author of the Swallows and Amazons series and many other much-loved children's books.


Uri Shulevitz is a Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator and author. He was born in Warsaw, Poland, on February 27, 1935. He began drawing at the age of three and, unlike many children, never stopped. The Warsaw blitz occurred when he was four years old, and the Shulevitz family fled. For eight years they were wanderers, arriving, eventually, in Paris in 1947. There Shulevitz developed an enthusiasm for French comic books, and soon he and a friend started making their own. At thirteen, Shulevitz won first prize in an all-elementary-school drawing competition in Paris's 20th district.


In 1949, the family moved to Israel, where Shulevitz worked a variety of jobs: an apprentice at a rubber-stamp shop, a carpenter, and a dog-license clerk at Tel Aviv City Hall. He studied at the Teachers' Institute in Tel Aviv, where he took courses in literature, anatomy, and biology, and also studied at the Art Institute of Tel Aviv. At fifteen, he was the youngest to exhibit in a group drawing show at the Tel Aviv Museum.


At 24 he moved to New York City, where he studied painting at Brooklyn Museum Art School and drew illustrations for a publisher of Hebrew books. One day while talking on the telephone, he noticed that his doodles had a fresh and spontaneous look—different from his previous illustrations. This discovery was the beginning of Uri's new approach to his illustrations for The Moon in My Room, his first book, published in 1963. Since then he was written and illustrated many celebrated children’s books. He won the Caldecott Medal for The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, written by Arthur Ransome. He has also earned three Caldecott Honors, for The Treasure, Snow and How I Learned Geography. His other books include One Monday Morning, Dawn, So Sleepy Story,and many others. He also wrote the instructional guide Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books. He lives in New York City.

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Reading Group Guide

Author/illustrator Uri Shulevitz spent the early years of his life, from the age of four, wandering

with his family, in search of a home. From war-torn Warsaw, Poland to the Central Asian city of

Turkestan in the Soviet Union to Paris, France to Tel Aviv, Israel, and finally to his permanent

home in New York City.  

Likewise, many of the characters in his books travel too. The Fool of the World sets off in search of

a flying ship. The young boy in How I Learned Geography uses a map and his imagination to travel

the world. Benjamin of Tudela journeys for fourteen years to the far reaches of the known world

and back again to Spain. In The Treasure, Isaac travels great distances to the Royal Palace in search

of a treasure that he finally finds under his own stove. And the young hero of When I Wore My

Sailor Suit sets off on an imaginary journey to distant lands as the captain of a sailing ship on both

calm and storm tossed seas.

Opportunities abound for social studies curriculum connections as well as language arts (reading,

writing, and research) and visual art connections. Invite your students to join you on a journey of

fun, learning, and imagination!

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2007


    Uri Shulevitz was born in Warsaw, and spent his early years in Europe. He lived in Israel from 1949 to 1959, and now lives in New York City. He is the illustrator of One Monday Morning, and the author illustrator of The Moon in My Room. He received the Caldecott Medal in 1969 for The fool Of The World And The Flying Ship: A Russian Tale. It is retold by Arthur Ransome, who received the first Carnegie Medal in 1936 for Pigeon Post. He witness the Bolshevik Revolution, and later expelled by the Soviet regime. While in Russia, he collected folk tales including The fool Of The World And The Flying Ship that were retold in Old Peter¿s Russian Tales. Ransome was eighty-three when he died in 1967. The Fool of the World was a peasant boy who lived with his parents and two brothers. Everyone looked down on the Fool, including his parents. One day the Czar of the country sent messengers around to let everyone know that if they could get him a flying ship, he would give that person his daughters hand in marriage. His two brothers set off immediately to build the ship, and their mother packed them a fine meal and corn brandy. The Fool wanted to go, but his mother only packed him some crust of black bread and a flask of water. On his travels he ran into an ancient man who asked him where he was going. He told him, and said that he did not know how to build the ship. The man asked him sit down to share his lunch with him, but the Fool told him that the lunch was not suitable for company. The ancient man did not mind that, and the Fool opened him sack of food. In his bag was wonderful meal instead of what his mother had packed for him. The ancient man told him to go into the forest and gave him some instructions. Once he followed his instructions, a flying ship would be waiting for him. The Fool did what he was told, and his ship awaited him. He picked up all the people along the way, just as he was told to do. Once he landed in the Czars palace, the Czar did not want a peasant to marry his daughter. The Czar began to order the Fool to perform different tasks. With each task ordered, the Fool and his companions managed to complete each one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2001

    Humorous Tale of Magic and Faith with Great Illustrations

    The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship won the Caldecott Medal in 1969 as the best illustrated American children's book in that year. The illustrations feature bright colors, subtle shadings, and stylistically interesting pen highlights to suggest outlines and details. The illustrations take you enjoyably into a magical world for a fascinating journey, and greatly add to the pleasure of this traditional Russian tale. The story is build around the theme of: 'You see how God loves simple folk.' A family has three sons, two who are clever and one who is foolish. 'He was as simple as a child, simpler than some children, and he never did anyone a harm in his life.' The parents were proud of their clever sons and disappointed in their foolish one. When the news comes that the Czar wants a flying ship, the parents support the efforts of the two clever sons. They set off and are never heard from again. When the foolish son sets off, he gets the the minimum of support and encouragement. He soon runs into 'an ancient old man with a bent back, and a long beard, and eyes hidden under his bushy eyebrows.' The foolish son offers to share his meager food, apologizing to the ancient man. But when he opens his bag, marvelous food appears instead. The ancient man has magical powers and teaches the foolish son how to make a flying ship for the Czar. The ancient man also advises the foolish son to take along everyone he meets on his trip to the Czar's palace to deliver the flying ship. Along the way, the foolish son meets a most unusual set of people with great individualized talents. As you read the book, you will be wondering what their significance could possibly be. They turn out to be a sort of 19th century X-Men. The promised reward for bringing the flying ship had been the hand of the Czar's daughter in marriage and a rich dowry. When the foolish son arrives, the Czar's men report that those in the ship are only a bunch of uncouth peasants. As a result, the Czar doesn't want to make good on his promise, so he sets up extreme challenges (not unlike the Wizard of Oz). Using the remarkable talents of his passengers, all of the tests are met by the foolish son. The foolish son is married to the Czar's daughter, and they live happily ever after. The foolish son then 'became so clever that all the court repeated everything he said.' As you can see, the story is also a satire on the people who think they are clever or know how to identify cleverness. They often outsmart themselves. The Czar wanted a flying ship, but would have been much better off making good use of the talents of the peasants who were already part of his kingdom. Also, we are never told what use he made of the flying ship. It appears that he gave his daughter away for a whim. The winning man might as easily have been a terrible person. The courtiers also thought that anyone who was powerful was clever. I laughed aloud several times while reading the story. Unlike most children's stories for this age group (4-8), this book has a richness of plot, character development, and humor that makes it more like a novel. After you have finished enjoying the story with your child, I suggest that the two of you have some fun talking about places where 'clever' people act foolishly and vice versa. You can help your child see the bright side of much of the nonsense that goes on around us. Be foolish in providing and seeking out help, and a great bounty of friendship will be yours! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution

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