Review of The Aquanaut

The Aquanaut The Aquanaut
by Dan Santat; illus. by the author
Intermediate    Scholastic    256 pp.   g
3/22    978-0-545-49760-2    $24.99
Paper ed.  978-0-545-49761-9    $12.99

In this fast-paced graphic novel, the story shifts quickly from the prologue’s dramatic underwater disaster to a goofy sci-fi buddy comedy set five years later. A motley crew of ocean creatures, led by a hermit crab named Sodapop, turns an old-school diving suit into a ­three-kids-in-a-trench-coat-style way for them to leave the ocean and find Aqualand, a place they read about in the journal of the marine biologist who’d died in the book’s first pages. But instead of the safe haven for ocean animals they expected, they find a theme park run by a greedy investor, as well as the grief-stricken daughter and brother of the deceased scientist. While the plot gets a bit convoluted, ­Santat handles both the goofy physical comedy and the family’s grief deftly. The exceptional art is what makes those disparate elements work together, with muted green and deep blue tones creating a palette against which both the slapstick and the characters’ expressive facial expressions pop. The Aquanaut itself switches between looking hilariously unwieldy and absolutely otherworldly, and Santat finds both humor and pathos in the strange gaze of its faceless helmet.

From the July/August 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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