Wednesday, July 29, 2009

For the Older Sibling: The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau

What makes a picture book stand out from the crowd? How about unique art treatments, interesting layouts, intriguing perspectives, and tight text? The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau includes each of these elements and more. When I first opened this work, I knew I was holding a gem. I'll be shocked if this doesn't garner awards.

Author/illustrator Dan Yaccarino's text relays the life of Cousteau, from childhood to adult. The simple font does not detract from the illustrations and almost reflects the voice of the storyteller. The pacing of facts, interspersed with quotes from Cousteau, is brilliant. Yaccarino conveys so much feeling in this non-fiction work.

"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever." Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Yaccarino's gouache and airbrush treatments perfectly capture the underwater world. The layers of imagery and color pull the attention into the multitude of details. The large format is able to hold the world Cousteau uncovers.

I've watched adults pick up this work and say, "I didn't know Cousteau co-invented the Aqua-Lung," while children say, "I didn't really know who he was before." Then both groups sink into the story.

I'm so happy to share this beautiful book with you this month. The siblings, friends, and family of your readertotz will be amazed by Cousteau's journey, discoveries, and achievements, captured and shared brilliantly by Yaccarino. Here's my favorite quote which concludes the book:

"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, and we can work."

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau

by Dan Yaccarino
Alfred A. Knopf, 2009