The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau

3.5 2
by Dan Yaccarino

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Discover the man behind the snorkel in Dan Yaccarino’s exciting biography!See more details below

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Discover the man behind the snorkel in Dan Yaccarino’s exciting biography!

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Yaccarino (Every Friday) dives into more complex material than many of his previous books for younger readers with this captivating biography. "Weak and sickly" as a boy, Cousteau turned to the Mediterranean (and to tinkering) in his youth, but his life changes forever when a friend gives him a pair of goggles. ("Man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free," says the oceanographer-his exuberant quotes lend the story a bubbly energy.) Cousteau makes his own diving equipment-the Aqua-Lung, a cover for his camera, undersea lighting-eventually equipping his own research vessel and sharing the world's oceans through his many films and books. Yaccarino's retro-style spreads-smoky blues and violets contrasting with vibrant reds and golds-are nicely suited to Cousteau's underwater playground; the fuzzy quality of his airbrushing makes it seem as though readers are submerged themselves. Yaccarino's somewhat abstracted forms won't satisfy children who want photo-real views of sea life, but the author's enthusiasm for Cousteau, as well as the majesty and mystery of the sea, is apparent on every page. Ages 6-9. (Mar.)

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Children's Literature - Paula K. Zeller
"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever," said Jacques Cousteau in one of the quotes dotting the two-page spreads of this treasure of a book. Dan Yaccarino perfectly captures Cousteau's fascination with and love for the sea through his energetic text and stylized, textured, jewel-toned depictions of the "amazing universe under the waves." We are introduced to Cousteau as a sickly child who discovers his love of the water when his doctors encourage him to swim. He also loves making movies and inventing gadgets. A serious car accident as a young man brings Cousteau back to the sea, where he swims every day to recover the use of his arms. But it is the gift of a pair of goggles that "changed his life forever." The remainder of the book follows Cousteau as he and fellow scientists invent equipment such as the Aqua-Lung, which allows more time to explore underwater, and waterproof camera equipment and lights, which make underwater filming possible. Cousteau turns a boat into a research lab and film studio, and shares his passion with the world through books, encyclopedias, documentary films, and a popular television series. "We protect what we love," said Cousteau, and so he founded the Cousteau Society to help save the world's oceans. From the endpapers—with illustrations of various colorful sea life starkly contrasted against white—and through each page turn, this biography enchants. Introduce it to a child who loves the water, animals, inventions, the environment, or one who simply wants a good, inspiring story that is beautifully illustrated. Reviewer: Paula K. Zeller
School Library Journal

K-Gr 4

Yaccarino deftly provides information about important events in Cousteau's life while conveying the excitement and wonder that the ocean explorer experienced. Readers learn about his tinkering that resulted in inventions such as the Aqua-Lung and submersibles that expanded the range of undersea exploration and research. Then Cousteau shared his discoveries through films, books, and television, encouraging others to value and protect the oceans from environmental degradation. Effective layout and page design plus colorful gouache illustrations result in a striking visual presentation for small-group sharing or individual viewing. Brief quotations from Cousteau appear in insets on some pages; there is no documentation of Yaccarino's own research. Jennifer Berne's Manfish (Chronicle, 2008) uses more poetic language and features softer, more aquatic colors in the illustrations. Even libraries with that biography will want to add Yaccarino's book to the shelves.-Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Kirkus Reviews
This second early biography of Cousteau in a year echoes Jennifer Berne's Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau (2008), illustrated by Eric Puybaret, in offering visuals that are more fanciful than informational, but also complements it with a focus less on the early life of the explorer and eco-activist than on his later inventions and achievements. In full-bleed scenes that are often segmented and kaleidoscopic, Yaccarino sets his hook-nosed subject amid shoals of Impressionistic fish and other marine images, rendered in multiple layers of thinly applied, imaginatively colored paint. His customarily sharp, geometric lines take on the wavy translucence of undersea shapes with a little bit of help from the airbrush. Along with tracing Cousteau's undersea career from his first, life-changing, pair of goggles and the later aqualung to his minisub Sea Flea, the author pays tribute to his revolutionary film and TV work, and his later efforts to call attention to the effects of pollution. Cousteau's enduring fascination with the sea comes through clearly, and can't help sparking similar feelings in readers. (chronology, source list) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2009:
“Cousteau’s enduring fascination with the sea comes through clearly, and can’t help sparking similar feelings in readers.”

Review, The New York Times Book Review, May 10, 2009:
"[A] timely gift to the children– and many parents–who are too young to know the adventures of Captain Cousteau and his ship, Calypso."

Review, Chicago Tribune, May 16, 2009:
"Yaccarino's illustrations remind us of all the mysterious undersea beauty Cousteau introduced to so many."

Review, San Francisco Chronicle, April 26, 2009:
"With a deft hand, Yaccarino lays the foundation for an extraordinary life."

Review, The Boston Globe, March 22, 2009:
"Exquisitely written and well-researched."

Review, School Library Journal, March 2009:
"Yaccarino deftly provides information about important events in Cousteau’s life while conveying the excitement and wonder that the ocean explorer experienced."

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.07(w) x 11.99(h) x 0.18(d)
AD840L (what's this?)
Age Range:
6 - 9 Years

Meet the Author

Dan Yaccarino is an internationally acclaimed author-illustrator with more than 30 books to his credit. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

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