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.
About 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. At thirteen, Shulevitz won first prize in an all-elementary-school drawing competition in Paris's 20th district. He was written and illustrated many celebrated children's books, including the Caldecott Medal-winner 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.
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!
LANGUAGE ARTS: Reading Literacy
To Tell a Tale: To Learn a Lesson
Both The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship and The Treasure are retellings of well-known tales. Introduce or revisit the concept of folklore, particularly folktales and fairy tales. Then,
introduce students to The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship as a Russian fairy tale retold by
Arthur Ransome in Old Peter's Russian Tales and illustrated by Uri Shulevitz and The Treasure as a traditional English folktale, retold and illustrated by Shulevitz.
Read both books aloud to students and engage them in a discussion of the similarities and differences in the plots of the two stories. Record their responses on a Venn diagram. Ensure that students notice the shared theme of travel to the royal palace by a poor fellow in search of a "prize."
Remind students that folktales and fairy tales often aim to teach a moral or "lesson." Conclude your discussion by asking students to formulate the moral of each story.
Extension: Read aloud other folk and fairy tales and challenge students to distill and state the moral of each story. [Note: Fables are a kind of folktale that have readily apparent morals. Consider starting this activity by sharing and discussing Aesop's Fables, selected and illustrated by Michael
LANGUAGE ARTS: Writing Literacy
On the Other Hand
The story of The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship is told from the Fool's point of view. There are, of course, other points of view that the story might have been told from. One of the most interesting of these is the Princess's point of view. Begin by inviting students to consider how the
Princess might have felt about her father's decision to give her away in exchange for a "flying ship"
with no thoughts to her own feelings or preferences in the matter. Would she have appreciated her father's actions? Would she have worried about who she might have to marry? Would she have looked forward to meeting the winner? Would she have rebelled? If so, how? The answer to each of these questions will depend on the character traits of the Princess that your students imagine. For example, is she strong-spirited, shy, willful, respectful, quiet, loud?
Depending on the age and maturity level of your students, invite them to write the story of The Fool
of the World and the Flying Ship entirely from the Princess's point of view either as a full-class activity, in pairs, or individually. Read and share each story with the full class. Allow students to illustrate their tales if time allows.
One Artist, Two Styles
Uri Shulevitz won a Caldecott Medal for The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship in 1968 and a
Caldecott Honor citation for The Treasure in 1978. Begin by introducing or reviewing the purpose and criteria for the Randolph Caldecott Medal given annually by the Association for Library
Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the "artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children."
Next, read both books aloud to children. Then, invite them to comment on the illustrations in the books and the things that they enjoy about each. Discuss the similarities and differences they notice in the illustrations, focusing not only on the style of the illustrations but such design elements as single versus double-page spreads, framed versus full bleed illustrations, and visual perspectives.
Invite students to choose the style most appealing to them and create a piece of artwork, possibly using watercolor, that imitates the Shulevitz style they have chosen. Display related student work beneath a photocopy of the illustration from the first page of each book.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
An announcement from the Czar states that the first man to make a flying ship can wed his daughter. A family with three sons sends the two older sons, as the third is seen as an idiot. The first two disappear, so the third decides to attempt himself. He finds friends who help him to have a flying ship, and upon reaching the palace each person he has picked up plays a crucial role in his marrying the Czar's daughter. A great, inspirational tale with fantastical elements.
This old folklore is about a mouse that is considered a fool who sets out to build a flying ship to marry the Tzar's daughter. He meets a wise old man who helps him build a flying ship and tells him to pick up anyone he sees on the way. In the long run, the people he meets help him to win the Tzar's daughter. This is a great book to use to teach children about friendship and other cultures.
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.
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