March 2022

The Aquanaut

Review by
A quartet of sea creatures may hold the key to Sophia’s father’s disappearance in The Aquanaut, a humorous, heartwarming graphic novel.
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The Caldecott Medal-winning author-illustrator of The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend brings his whimsical and fun-filled storytelling style to a longer format in The Aquanaut, a graphic novel for middle grade readers.

Sophia Revoy’s family has always been involved in marine biology. Her father and uncle regularly go out to sea on long research expeditions, and they also opened a marine reserve and theme park called Aqualand in their hometown of San Diego. But five years ago, Sophia’s father was lost at sea during an expedition, and neither Sophia nor Aqualand has been the same since.

One afternoon, Sophia heads to the park to convince her uncle to help with her science fair project, her final hope of salvaging her failing grade in science class. On her way through the park to Aqualand’s labs, she bumps into someone in an aquanaut suit. She quickly discovers that the suit isn’t being worn by a person. Instead, it’s an animatronic device being piloted by a quartet of sea creatures: Captain Sodapop, a hermit crab; Carlos, a dumbo octopus; Jobim, a sea turtle; and Antonio, a tiny blanket octopus. Sophia is swept up in a series of mishaps and escapades with these unlikely friends. Along the way, she uncovers long-buried secrets about her father’s disappearance—and about Aqualand itself.

Dan Santat’s signature visual style lends itself beautifully to the lighthearted, adventurous tone of the story and its many moments of slapstick comedy. His panels are colorful and bright, and his characters are cartoonish in the best way. Santat excels in drawing human and sea creature facial expressions that drive home the emotions each character feels. The Aquanaut is a humorous and heartwarming tale about the lengths to which we’ll go to protect and care for our families.

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