cover image The Aquanaut

The Aquanaut

Dan Santat. Graphix, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-545-49761-9

In a dramatic cold open, Caldecott Medalist Santat renders the catastrophic sinking of an ocean research vessel: marine biologist and captain Michel Revoy goes down with the ship, leaving behind a labeled canister and message in a bottle, but his brother Paul survives, charged with caring for Michel’s daughter, Sophia (all are portrayed as pale-skinned). Five years later, a figure in an antique diving suit wades onto a busy San Diego beach; it’s a robotic aquanaut, captained by four intrepid sea creatures—a hermit crab called Sodapop, octopuses Antonio and Carlos, and an unflappable sea turtle named Jobim. They’ve encountered Michel’s diary, and they’re searching for Aqualand, the marine reserve the Revoy brothers founded. The sea creatures are effective comic foils for a human drama about family legacy and Aqualand’s commercialization, and they also carry the story’s moral arc as they risk their lives to rescue their captive brethren, encountering Sophia along the way. Kinetic panel artwork impresses throughout, with smart pacing that swings between hilarity and suspense—the underwater scenes in particular mesmerize with saturated blue-blacks that convey infinite depth and silence. Ages 8–12. Agent: Jodi Reamer, Writers House. (Mar.)