Kirkus Reviews – Starred Review
This moving tribute to the great nautical observer and filmmaker is shot through with an authentically childlike sense of adventure and the thrill of discovery. Curious about the world, and especially the oceans, from his earliest years, Cousteau experimented with cameras, dreamed of flying and grew up to combine these interests-inventing the aqualung along the way so that he and his friends could see and record more of the deep's treasures. Puybaret ventures into Mary GrandPre territory with his shimmering, stylized seascapes, depicting long-bodied divers slipping sinuously through schools of brightly patterned fish and other sea life. Climaxing with a spectacular double foldout and closing with both an environmental warning and a wish that "someday it would be you, exploring worlds never seen, never imagined," this poetic profile of a doer and a dreamer is certain to inspire fresh interest in discovering, and in caring for, our world's wonders.
-- Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
Booklist – Starred Review
"Bubbles rising through the silence of the sea, silvery beads of breath . . . a manfish swimming, diving into the unknown." Atmospheric poetry begins this luminous picture-book biography about Jacques Cousteau. Berne's simple language is both lyrical and concise. 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.
-- Booklist, Starred Review
School Library Journal
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
New York Times – Sunday Book Review
New York Times Sunday Book Review
By Lawrence Downes
Published: May 6, 2009
Jacques-Yves Cousteau used the fine word “manfish” to describe the creature he became when swimming underwater…Gliding above the coral in flippered feet…
You can see Cousteau soaring in “Manfish,” by Jennifer Berne… [a] picture-book biography that [has] arrived ahead of his 100th birthday next year… a timely gift to the children — and many parents — who are too young to know the adventures of Captain Cousteau and his ship, Calypso...
Young Jacques… shows an early mechanical aptitude and a fascination with photography. He saves to buy a movie camera and immediately takes it apart. He makes films with his friends and family. He loves the water. Then destiny arrives, in a simple gift of goggles. “Beneath the water he was surrounded by silvery green forests of sea plants and fish he had never seen before,” Berne writes. “Everything was silent and shimmering. It was a... magical underwater world. At that moment Jacques knew his life was changed forever...”
Cousteau longs to go deeper… He eagerly takes his cameras and lights underwater. He gets a ship and a crew, and they crisscross the watery planet… if it’s wet, they find and film it. They are fearless...
Then, he is heartbroken. He sees the oceans and their fish slowly being destroyed… He crusades to stop pollution. He leaves a legacy of books and films, his life’s labor, so that others can come to love the undersea world as he did, and save it...
“Manfish” has … absorbing pictures, in acrylic on linen, by Éric Puybaret, who is also a diver. “Manfish” is… fun… [with] fish to look at, including a pullout page that, turned vertically, gives a suggestion of the teeming depths of the kingdoms that so captivated Cousteau.