The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau, written and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino, is an excellent example of a nonfiction picture book. It's filled with interesting facts and eye-catching illustrations. Even people who know about Jacques Cousteau, the father of undersea exploration, will likely learn new tidbits. He turned to the ocean because he was sickly as a child, and a doctor thought it would help him get stronger. He and a friend created the Aqua-Lung. "He produced fifty books, two encyclopedias, and dozens of documentary films." He built labs to see if people could live underwater. It's all fascinating. The book also includes quotes from Jacques Cousteau, lovingly placed inside bubbles on each page. An appendix at the end fills in additional details, and includes selected sources for further study.
All of that makes The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau quality nonfiction. But the gouache and airbrush illustrations are what make the book hard to resist. Yaccarino's vaguely abstract paintings are perfect for conveying life under the sea. He uses lots of deep colors, and repeated geometric patterns, like a sea-formed kaleidoscope. Cousteau himself is drawn in a stylized manner,tall and thin, and literally immersed in his fascination with the sea.
The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau would be an excellent choice for bedtime reading the night before a trip to the shore. Like Cousteau's work, the book is "a glimpse of the amazing universe under the waves." Recommended in particular for library purchase.
Diane Chen has today's Nonfiction Monday round-up at Practically Paradise.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.