Under the Sea

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau
By Dan Yaccarino
(Alfred E. Knopf, New York, 2009, $16.99)

In The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau, Dan Yaccarino introduces young readers to the oceanic explorer’s work. Simple prose and colorful illustrations allow children to share Cousteau’s sense of wonder at the natural world.

Yaccarino focuses on Cousteau’s love for the world’s oceans. He touches the high points of Cousteau’ life: Cousteau’s childhood sickliness, which he overcame by sea swimming, his invention of the Aqua Lung, an attempt to colonize the ocean, and the discovery of 2,200 year old wine. With Cousteau, readers venture into Mediterranean, Australian, African, and Antarctic waters. Throughout the book, bubbles containing Cousteau’s most inspiring quotes float alongside the illustrations.

Yaccarino creates red, blue, purple, and orange seas for Cousteau and readers to explore. The oceans’ inhabitants are just as vivid:  puzzled seahorses, playful fish, and a curious sea dragon regard Cousteau quizzically. Yaccarino isn’t giving readers a biology lesson, but inviting them to marvel at a new world with him and the French explorer.

“The ocean, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever,” said Cousteau. This picture-book biography should cast its own spell, prompting kids to learn more about Cousteau’s career and ocean life.

 © Dorothy A. Dahm

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