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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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