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The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau

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Jacques Cousteau was the world s ambassador of the oceans. His popular TV series brought whales, otters, and dolphins right into people s living rooms. Now, in this exciting picturebook biography, Dan Yaccarino introduces young readers to the man behind the snorkel.
From the first moment he got a glimpse of what lived under the ocean s waves, Cousteau was hooked. And so he set sail aboard the Calypso to see the sea. He and his team of scientists invented diving equipment and waterproof cameras. They made films and televisions shows and wrote books so they could share what they learned. The oceans were a vast unexplored world, and Cousteau became our guide. And when he saw that pollution was taking its toll on the seas, Cousteau became our guide in how to protect the oceans as well."

40 pages, Hardcover

First published March 24, 2009

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About the author

Dan Yaccarino

99 books120 followers
Exhibitions of his work have been held throughout the world. He is also the creator of the animated TV Series Willa's Wild Life and Oswald.

Mr. Yaccarino lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

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5 stars
442 (38%)
4 stars
437 (38%)
3 stars
209 (18%)
2 stars
37 (3%)
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10 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 199 reviews
Profile Image for Mischenko.
1,014 reviews97 followers
March 9, 2017
The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino is a children's book about a man who loved the sea and wanted to share all its loveliness with the world.

The book starts out in his childhood and progresses through his life of underwater adventures. The book also discusses his ideas and inventions for viewing and staying below water longer by use of an aqua lung.

"When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself."
Jacques-Yves Cousteau

The illustrations are beautiful, colorful, and keep children's interest. The story is simple and easy to follow. I particularly enjoyed the list of important events in his life and selected sources for further study.

Profile Image for Kathryn.
4,189 reviews
September 22, 2010
An enjoyable and informative glimpse into the life of Jacques Cousteau, particularly his inventions for exploring the fantastic world beneath the waves. I especially appreciated the quotes scattered throughout the book so we could hear things in Cousteau's own words.

If one is seeking picture book biographies of Cousteau, this one will inevitably be compared to Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau and I think both are worthy tributes to the subject. The illustrations in "Fantastic Undersea" are a little more cartoonish than those in "Manfish" Also, "Manfish" focuses a little more on the filmmaking side of Cousteau's life and also his earliest days with filmmaking and inventing as a child--but "Fantastic" explains more about his later life. However, both will inspire an appreciation of the sea and of Cousteau's remarkable contributions to sensitive and awe-inspiring exploration of this vast and "fantastic" world that so few had ever seen to prior to his adventures and sharing them with the world through his filmmaking.

Profile Image for Abigail.
7,088 reviews182 followers
April 3, 2020
An engaging picture-book biography of the famous French scientist, inventor, explorer, and pioneering underwater film-maker, Dan Yaccarino's The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau has the kind of bold cover-art that will immediately draw the young reader in. With black and white panels, a stylishly elongated Cousteau, and a title in colorful type, the cover mirrors the excitement within, as Cousteau's eventful life - his many discoveries, inventions and honors - is set out in a simple, straightforward text, and paired with brief quotations from the great man himself.

I enjoyed this title - which I have seen compared to another picture-book examination of Cousteau's life, Jennifer Berne's Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau - and highly recommend it to young readers who appreciate biography, or who are interested in underwater exploration and marine biology. The artwork, as already mentioned, is attention-grabbing - colorful, energetic, and full of fun - and an informative afterword provides further details about Cousteau's life and achievements.
Profile Image for Robb Rugeroni.
26 reviews1 follower
April 14, 2020
Yaccarino, Dan. The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau (2009). eBook. Read “In Browser” mode.
As a child of the 1970’s, there is a special sentiment reserved for the pioneers who, knowingly or not, took it upon themselves to broaden the world with their endeavors during that time. Jacques Cousteau was one of those pioneers and his life’s work and words are captured elegantly in author Dan Yaccarino’s book for children. Each page is a combination of quotes from Cousteau, descriptive text from the author as well as his colorful, carefully stylized illustrations that consume the majority of the page’s white space. Each picture focuses on showing the reader Cousteau in action or the design that he developed and is being discussed. The author presents Cousteau early on in the book as a troubled child who overcomes physical impairments and injuries using his imagination and engineering skills without over dramatizing the subject's trials and tribulations. With each of Cousteau's innovations, from the Aqua Lung to the Diving Saucer to the underwater lab that provided Cousteau with one of his only defeats that Yaccarino adds, young readers and STEM aficionados will enjoy this historical homage to a visionary scientist that provided my generation with our first look at the world under the sea and the current generation with a blueprint for protecting the oceans.
The ebook is broken into two-page combinations for users in the browser and allows mouse or touch control to swipe from page to page as well as the unique opportunity to zoom in on the illustrations. At the conclusion of the biography, the author includes a 3-page timeline of events, both that were described in the text and that were not, and also adds a page of titles for additional study by readers. Target audience: grades 1 - 4.
5,870 reviews130 followers
June 29, 2021
The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau is a children's picture book written and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. It centers on Jacques Cousteau, who was fascinated with the sea and sharing it with everyone.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau was a French naval officer, explorer, conservationist, filmmaker, innovator, scientist, photographer, author and researcher who studied the sea and all forms of life in water. He co-developed the Aqua-Lung, pioneered marine conservation and was a member of the Académie Française.

Yaccarino's text is rather simplistic, straightforward, and informative. Yaccarino's enthusiasm for Cousteau, as well as the majesty and mystery of the sea, is apparent on every page as he retells the life of the seaman. Backmatter includes chronology and source list. Yaccarino's retro-style spreads are nicely suited to Cousteau's underwater playground – the fuzzy quality of his airbrushing makes it seem as though readers are submerged themselves.

The premise of the book is rather straightforward. Weak and sickly as a boy, Cousteau turned to the Mediterranean in his youth, but his life changes forever when a friend gives him a pair of goggles. 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.

All in all, The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau is a wonderful biography that dives into the amazing life of Jacques Cousteau.
Profile Image for Ann.
510 reviews
October 20, 2010
This is another great book with insights into the life of Jacques Cousteau! Previously I had read Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau which I also thoroughly enjoyed! I think my sister put it best when she said that "Manfish" gives more information on Cousteau's younger life, and this book gives more information on his young adult/early adult years. Personally, I enjoyed the illustrations in "Manfish" a little more (a tad more realistic) but that is purely personal and I thought these illustrations fit the story really well.
Unfortunately, I didn't have time to read the extra back matter in this book, but it looked pretty informative for those wishing a deeper look into Cousteau's life.
Profile Image for Dan Blackley.
907 reviews2 followers
June 14, 2020
This is one of the best books for learning about Jacques Cousteau and the illustrations are amazing! I saw the poster for this book and looked for it for three months before finding a copy. I really enjoyed this book about a man who saw conservation before anyone else did and what he did about it.
Profile Image for SamZ.
816 reviews
June 18, 2020
Cute. I love the various quotes by Cousteau throughout the book, as well as the fact that the illustrations are so much more colorful and filled out when Jacques is under water than when he is on dry land. I found myself wising for some actual photos, however, when the book began mentioning some of Cousteau's discoveries.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
3,930 reviews84 followers
August 11, 2021
Cousteau was a truly fascinating man. But can we talk for one second about how he fathered two children in his eighties?? Because honestly that was the most memorable fact in the book. Holy moly.
Profile Image for Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance.
5,780 reviews280 followers
October 17, 2009
My Thoughts:
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.

A Sample:
“The fish off the coast of Africa were friendly and curious and did not swim away. Cousteau was the first human being they had ever seen.”
Children’s Comments:
Alexis, 6, said, "I liked how he went down in the ocean."
Vanessa, 6, said, "I liked how he made a camera all by himself."
Jony, 6, said, "I liked how he saw the seahorse."
Melanie, 6, said, "I liked when he went down in the ocean."
Tabitha, 7, said, "I liked how he was on tv."
Joey, 6, said, "I liked how he got sick and had to go under the water."

Children’s Ratings: 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5
Profile Image for The Reading Countess.
1,731 reviews56 followers
January 13, 2010
This was a new biography that my librarian allowed me to preview before she put it on the shelves. I'm glad she did, since I really liked it and read it aloud to my students. Most of them had never heard of this great man, and it saddened me. They were fascinated that he invented so many of the tools of underwater sea exploration that we now take for granted. I used this book to talk about life lessons applied to our own lives (we call this the SO-WHAT in our class).
Profile Image for Lili Martin.
21 reviews2 followers
February 14, 2011
This book was amazing. It had awesome pics in it and it's really easy to read because it only takes one day. In such a short book it can tell you a lot about him. Here's a fact, Jacques got in a car accident but never gave up his under water life. He swam, explored the under world, and designed a new snorkeling suite. Wow is he good. That's good for someone who had a hard child life.
Profile Image for Joanne Roberts.
1,000 reviews12 followers
October 7, 2016
Outstanding introduction to pioneer scientist/inventor/celebrity. As colorful as a coral reef. Text and art communicate the MC's passion while entertaining the reader with factual tidbits. Narrative compares his boyhood interests with his adult accomplishments. created in a style easy for young readers to absorb.
Profile Image for Donalyn.
Author 7 books5,907 followers
January 7, 2012
A marvelous introduction to Jacques Cousteau's life and work-- in particular his many inventions that made sea exploration possible. Stunning illustrations.
17 reviews
December 4, 2017
Title: The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau

Author/Illustrator: Dan Yaccarino

Genre: Biography

Theme: Exploration, Perseverance, Passion

Opening Line/sentence: “Jacques Cousteau loved the sea. He spent his whole life exploring it”

Brief Book Summary: The book focuses on Jacque Cousteau’s time spent filming the seas and traveling the world. It begins with his sick childhood, where he discovers his love of the sea, and moves quickly into his adult life. It includes a focus on some of the inventions he made, and is heavy on pictures, and whimsical illustrations of the sea.

Professional Recommendation/Review #1:
Dian Wiig
National Science Teachers Association
This light and colorful book will delight young and old readers alike. The story of Jacques Cousteau is well researched and written for both lower and upper elementary students. Short paragraphs of clear text illustrated by double-page diagrams make the book appropriate for an introductory read aloud as well. The stylized pictures will not confuse younger readers; instead, they enhance the story and visual experience. Interspersed throughout the book are Cousteauisms--quotes that elaborate the story in the character's own words. It's easy to imagine an older mentor asking young readers what they think Cousteau meant by quotes like: "It fascinated me to do something that seemed impossible." I found this book enchanting. It illustrates the career of a scientist who probably never wore a lab coat. The timeline of facts and selected sources for further study at the end will help teachers extend this introductory experience for students. Because the Earth's oceans are such a rich area of research, reading about them is a great way to get young readers excited about exploration.

Professional Recommendation/Review #2:
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.

Response to Two Professional Reviews:
I agree with the reviews that the book was a marvelous read because of it’s focus on Cousteau’s love for the sea and the groundbreaking work he did with it. The illustrations added to the enjoyable feeling that reader gets as they read about this sick boy who loved the sea and went on to dedicate his live the becoming a pioneer of the oceans.

Evaluation of Literacy Elements: The book is full of inspiration and imagiantion. The adventures of Jacques Costeau, and the focus on his achievements is very inspiration in depicting a person who spent their whole live doing what they loved. The imagination is from the vibrant and fun illustrations that includes exaggerated body shapes and layered drawings.

Consideration of Instructional Application:
The story can be used for most elementary grades. It is simply written, but does a great job depicting the character, and includes motivational messages that are applicable. The illustrations make it fun to read aloud, and it can be a good introductory lesson to biographies.
Profile Image for Megan Reed.
30 reviews1 follower
July 26, 2017
Category/Genre: Picture Book/Narrative Nonfiction

Copyright Date: 2012

Estimate of age level of interest: Grades K - 3

Estimate of reading level: Grade 4

Brief description:

This full color picture book shares the biography of Jacques Cousteau. It begins with his love of the ocean as a boy and follows his life as he develops into a famous photographer and researcher.

Two characteristics of picture books/narrative nonfiction that appear in this book:

1. One characteristic of good picture books is the effective use of perspective in the illustration. This book uses perspective to reinforce the narrative. For example, to give a sense of the vastness of the ocean a diver is shown as a small creature peering in the face of a sprawling humpback whale.

2. Another characteristic of picture books that appear in this book is the use of space on the page. When the text is recalling the young life of Jacques Cousteau, the images seem to mirror his emerging sense of the world as they take up less of the page. In contrast, the illustrations that show him at the peak of his career as an ocean explorer, there is little open space as the ocean spills across a full two-page spread.

In what ways and how well does the book as a whole serve its intended audience?:

The marriage of colorful stylized imagery and simple, yet informative text reach out effectively to the intended audience. As the scale and perspective of images ebb and flow with the narration, select quotations and accurate facts from Cousteau's life lend authority to this nonfiction text for children in the lower grades of elementary school.

Awards: N/A

Published reviews from professional sources:

Booklist, 2009
Horn Book Magazine, 2009
School Library Journal, 2009
Science and Children (National Science Teachers' Association), 2010
December 1, 2018
Title: The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau
Author: Dan Yaccarino
Pages: 32
Lexile level: AD840L
Recommendations & Comments: Jacques Cousteau gained strength from the ocean. First by building up his muscles swimming, then by learning how many unexplored wonders were in the seas. As he worked to understand more about the ocean’s great depths and life, he helped to invent several types of equipment we know today, including SCUBA. The book explores his inventions as well as how he used them both to educate the world about oceans and to work for their protection. The language is simple and easy to understand, accompanied by stylized drawings popping with color and quotes from Cousteau himself. It’s a good introduction to subjects that may inspire further exploration.

For more information about Cousteau, consider Scuba Man by Carmen Bredeson or Who Was Jacques Cousteau?
5 out of 5 stars
Reviewed By: Mr. Tom
34 reviews1 follower
December 5, 2017
“The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau” by Dan Yaccarino, published by Dragonfly Books; copyright 2012

1. Awards: No awards.
2. Appropriate grade level: K-3rd grade
3. Summary: This book tells the story Jacques Cousteau’s life. Jacque Cousteau spent his life discovering and filming undersea life.
4. Review: I really enjoyed learning about Jacques Cousteau through reading this book. The style of illustration is very interesting to look at. The author does a great job at summarizing his life into an easy-to-understand format.
5. 2-3 possible in-class uses:
• Have students create a character chart of Jacques Cousteau
• Have students research different organizations for ocean protection
1 review
August 22, 2021
Beloved by a 7 year old boy.

Reading lead to many great connections and aspirations. Excellent worthwhile read and jumping off point for further oceanographic exploration. Thank you!
520 reviews
March 20, 2018
I learned a lot about Jacques Cousteau reading this book. About his early life, some of his discoveries and his quest to protect the ocean. Beautiful illustrations. A great book!
6 reviews3 followers
October 6, 2018
Great book for children as both an introduction to the amazing oceanographer and to reading biographies!
Profile Image for Peacegal.
9,799 reviews88 followers
September 23, 2019
Inspiring and thought-provoking story of this explorer and champion of the world's oceans. Bright and bold illustrations capture the eye, and Cousteau's biography captures the imagination.
Profile Image for Nicki.
2,037 reviews2 followers
May 28, 2020
Beautiful pictures, beautiful story and I love the quotes throughout.
Profile Image for Alisha.
760 reviews7 followers
August 4, 2020
Good picture book introduction to the life of Jacques Cousteau. This book mostly chronicles his interest in marine life.
Profile Image for David.
76 reviews
May 4, 2021
Cute kids book with colorful illustrations
28 reviews
May 28, 2021
A great book of the life of Jacques Cousteau and all of his steps to creating underwater films!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 199 reviews

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