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The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau Hardcover – March 24, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 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
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From Booklist

Yaccarino is best known for his whimsical animal characters, including some, such as Oswald the octopus, who now star in their own television series. Here he switches focus to a real-world, human hero: famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. The brief, evenly paced text, which includes a few direct quotes, describes Cousteau’s lifelong fascination with the sea, filmmaking, and invention, beginning with depictions of the scientist as a young boy, tinkering with cameras and swimming in the ocean to recover from chronic illness. Rendered in gouache and airbrush, the playful illustrations evoke popular mid-twentieth-century patterns and shades—a fitting reference to Cousteau’s professional heyday. A few scenes seem to emphasize design over realistic depictions: undersea vessels, in particular, are indistinct shapes, and Cousteau himself often appears as a stylized figure. The fanciful, textured images give a sense of the sea’s infinite swirl of life, though, and they are further grounded by the solid, straightforward words. Pair this energetic, inspiring biography with Jennifer Berne’s Manfish (2008), another picture-book view of Cousteau’s life and work. Grades K-3. --Gillian Engberg
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 3 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 2
  • Lexile Measure: 840L (What's this?)
  • Series: AWARDS: Texas Bluebonnet Master List 2010-2011
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (March 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375855734
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375855733
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 0.4 x 12.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #507,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dan has written and illustrated over three dozen children's books and has had the pleasure of working with some of the most prestigious names in children's literature, including Margaret Wise Brown, Jack Prelutsky, Kevin Henkes and Patricia MacLaughlin. Dan has also had the honor of being invited to the White House to share his books and to participate in the annual Easter festivities.

Dan has created and produced Nickelodeon's animated series, Oswald, as well as Willa's Wild Life and is the character designer behind Nickelodeon's The Backyardigans.

Currently, Dan is writing and illustrating more books and is developing more television as well as feature film projects.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By S. hanks on June 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
My 9 year old son, who is obsessed with sharks, used this book for a biography presentation on Cousteau. When we started looking for books at our local library on Cousteau, all we found were tons of adult reading material and virtually nothing from a child's perspective. This book introduced Cousteau to the young reader with simple words and beautiful illustrations to inspire future marine biologists. This book tells the story of Cousteau as a youth growing up. Who would have known that Cousteau became a swimmer/diver because he was a very sick child and his doctor told him to swim to gain strength. This kids book was long overdue.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ana Braga-Henebry VINE VOICE on October 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Like many parents our age, I grew up with Jacques Cousteau, the Frenchman who brought the life below the water level to everyone's homes via TV and films. Here is a colorful, friendly picture book about his life and accomplishments. Curious episodes of his life and his conservation efforts are explained in simple language. Also, beautiful, direct quotes from him are found throughout the colorful book, such as:

If we were logical, the future would be bleak indeed. But we are more than logical. We are human beings, and we have faith, and we have hope.

The art is reminiscent of illustrations from the 60s and very pleasant. We read this aloud and some of the facts of his life listed on the last page. We also found plenty on You Tube including longer films of his adventures on his ship, the Calypso.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Holly on December 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
My 3 year old and I are currently working through a themed curriculum about ocean creatures. I went to the library to pick up a dvd on the deep ocean (his favorite thing right now) and bumped into this little gem. I was very inspired by Jacques Cousteau as I was growing up. This story really brought back some fond memories of this man for me. My 3 year old listened intently to the book and asked some questions along the way and talked about Jacques Cousteau a few more times throughout the day today. He seems to be genuinely intrigued. I plan on buying this book for our home library now. I think Jacques Cousteau is such a wonderful example of so many things...persevenace, ingenuity, adventure, responsibility, preservation, education, etc. I hope my son becomes attached to his character just as I did. There is a lot to learn from him. I love the pictures in this book and did not find them "dizzy" as one reviewer said. They are very whimsical and beautiful. I love the story...simple, yet very informative. Lastly, I really enjoyed reading the quotes (I didn't read them to my 3 year old because I figured it might distract him, but I appreciated reading them on my own).
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on May 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
There are adult coverages of explorer Jacques Cousteau's life, so it's refreshing to find a child's picturebook version that covers Cousteau and his team's inventions, pursuits, and contributions. Oversized, artistic drawings accompany the simple survey of Cousteau's life and motivation for exploring the sea, making for a perfect choice for newcomers to biography.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By LonestarReader on December 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
With every line and every stroke of color, Dan Yaccarino tells the intriguing story of Jacques Cousteau. The text rounds out the story but, truly, the illustrations do all the heavy lifting here.

To my baby boomer eyes, his style is retro or modern in the sense that it evokes graphics and cartoon style of the 1960s but it is also wholly fresh.

His sinuous and linear drawings are simple yet detailed. Yaccarino captures the distinctive Cousteau aquiline nose in every drawing, even the ones of him as a child. The two page spread of his ship Calypso is drawn with simple shapes and flat colors yet the almost indistinct shapes of the sailors on deck are altogether French with their characteristic berets and striped shirts.
The fluid lines invoke the ocean Cousteau is discovering. His color palette with incised designs imparts the look of batik prints.

Eloquent quotations from Jacques Cousteau himself appear in a round bubble on each page.

"The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish"

Elegant storytelling this!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Debnance at Readerbuzz on March 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The text of this book wowed me. I could not stop reading to see what would happen to Cousteau. I liked its simplicity and its clearness. I liked how accessible the text was, even for the youngest of readers.

The illustrations were fun and cartoonish. I didn't like the colors the Yaccarino used for the water at first, every color except ocean blue, I think, but the colors grew on me, and I grew to love them.

I was very surprised how much the children liked this book and how much they were interested in this man's life.

The book also included a table of Cousteau's life and sources for further study.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Live Outside on February 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
So who exactly is Jacques Cousteau? I remember watching the TV series as a child, fascinated with all the underwater sea life that Jacques and his crew got to see first-hand ever day. I remember just saying his name as a child, made me feel important. In Dan Yaccarino’s book, Jacques’ life is laid out in tall pages with bright watercolor illustrations. Colorful sea creatures, fish and humans fill the pages with contrasting text which are sure to enlighten you as you explore the life of this famous individual. Each two-page spread has a quote from the famous explorer enclosed inside a bubble which I think adds a humanist feature to his life story. I learned quite a bit about this famous explorer from his determined personality as he battled some illnesses growing up to inventing his own equipment to fulfill his own desires. Treading where no other individual had gone before, Jacques opened the world of the ocean to the masses and with this book, we can open the world to what Jacques Cousteau did so many years ago.

There is so much for me to like about this book, which the book jacket just does not convey. Opening this book is like looking at the ocean floor while snorkeling around a coral reef. The size of the book is tall and oversized which helps show off the wonderful watercolor pictures inside. The contrasting colored text inside is easy to read and has a lot of interesting facts which tells about his life without being bogged down by boring particulars that children don’t really care about. We learn about his life as a child, his hardships and how he never gave up. We learn about what he saw under the sea, his inventions, and some fun adventures that he had. At the end of the book we are given a list of important events in his life and a list of resources we could use to find more information about his life. I highly recommend this book. I recommend it so much; I am going to buy my own copy of it since this was a library book that I had checked out.
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