From School Library Journal
Grade 2–5—A new generation of children is introduced to the pioneering oceanographer and filmmaker. Beginning with Cousteau's childhood in France where he marveled at the sea and dreamed of breathing underwater, Berne reveals the unique mix of curiosity, ingenuity, and passion that drove Cousteau to make underwater exploration possible. She describes his early experiments and forays into amateur filmmaking, helping readers understand the man he became. Most interesting is the simple explanation of how Cousteau and his friends developed the first fins, wetsuits, and scuba gear. Children will be surprised to know that before this man, the sport of scuba diving was nonexistent. Berne gently leads readers to Cousteau's passion for saving the underwater environment and then follows up with suggestions for further inquiry in her author's note. Almost poetic in its rich descriptions, the text is superimposed on ethereal acrylic paintings, submerging readers in the marine world. Shades of blue and green represent swaying, wraithlike strands of seaweed that both readers and oceanographers dart through while exploring the briny depths.—Nicki Clausen-Grace, Carillon Elementary School, Oviedo, FL
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*Starred Review* Writing in simple poetic language, both lyrical and concise (“Bubbles rising through the silence of the sea, silvery beads of breath . . . a manfish swimming, diving into the unknown.”), Berne offers a luminous picture-book biography about Jacques Cousteau. In just a few lines per page, she follows Cousteau through his life as he develops his twin passions for filmmaking and oceanic exploration, and she shows how a life’s path can begin with deep, childhood curiosity: “Little Jacques loved water—the way it felt on his hands, his face, his body. And water made him wonder. He wondered why ships floated. Why he floated.” Puybaret’s smooth-looking acrylic paintings extend the words’ elegant simplicity and beautifully convey the sense of infinite, underwater space; and an inventive format further reinforces the text: a bisected scene shows a diver’s waterline view above and below the surface; a series of panels depicts Cousteau and his friends learning to dive progressively deeper; and a gatefold dramatically suggests deep-sea depth. A closing scene, coated in sooty grays, describes how human activity has damaged sea life; and in a final, inspiring message, Berne calls for young people to become caring stewards of the earth. Only one disappointment: where are the source notes? Grades K-3. --Gillian Engberg