Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: The mysteries of the underwater world

It’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday! 

So excited to be participating in this meme again! I was inspired to read so many more nonfiction titles in 2013 thanks to #nfpb2013 and Alyson Beecher from KidLit Frenzy for the inspiration! I wrote about my favourite nonfiction picture book titles read in 2013 here. All of this reading meant many more fantastic titles being shared with my class! What could be better?

This week, I’m not sharing a recent title but it is one that is new to me and it was so enjoyed by my class that I felt the need to give it some more #booklove (of the nonfiction variety).

My students’ responses will help make the point of how accessible this book is to primary students.

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau written by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Éric Puybaret (published 2008)

Manfish NFPB 2014 The Mysteries of the Underwater World There's a Book for That

Picture book biographies, when well done, strike the important balance between inspiration and information. This title does this so well. The illustrations are magical – just the different shades of blue in the water on various pages is worth flipping through to notice. The theme that came through clearly was that Cousteau was fascinated by a world that he couldn’t spend prolonged time in. Without being able to breather underwater, how could Cousteau explore its mysteries? His invention of the aqua lung changed everything for him and for future ocean exploration.

What I loved most about this story is how it depicts the interests and passions of Cousteau at all ages and stages. It helps reinforce the message we want to send to our children – be curious, wonder, figure things out and care for our world. An ideal introduction to Cousteau.

Some student responses:

Ibtihal wrote: The most important thing under water is to breathe. The aqua lung helped Jacques to be a Manfish. When he was young he was curious. He loved to invent and draw things. He did writing and made his own movies. There’s a lot of fish in the water! 

Heman shared: Jacques Cousteau was a person who loved fish. When Jacques was a little boy, he was curious about how rocks sink and boats float. He always wondered how to breathe underwater. So he invented the aqua lung to solve his problem which let him be a Manfish. 

Hyo Min wrote: When Jacques goes deeper it gets colder and darker. He invents things. With his goggles he can go underwater.

Kevin wrote: I wonder how to breathe underwater? I learned that if you go deeper, it gets colder. The flippers made the men go faster and the rubber suits made them warm. Jacques liked to invent, draw and write. He wants to explore under water so he invented an aqua lung. They made an exploring boat. 

Kassidy shared: Jacques was interested in how to breathe underwater. He and his friends were having a race in the water. Who can go the fastest and stay under water longest? But they needed to stay under for longer. 

Andrew shared: Jacques went diving with his friends Didi and Phillipe. He invented the aqua lung/water lung. Just when he went down it was like a new world to Jacques. He felt so good. He saw two worlds together. He was a Manfish! 

We read this title over two days in my classroom and did a lot of talking, wondering and writing. Students asked if we could learn more about how to save the ocean from pollution to be like Jacques Cousteau. There was much upset and talk about how people are throwing their trash in the ocean. We will continue exploring this topic. At the back of Manfish in the author’s note are some suggestions of how to have “more Cousteau” in your life. Caring for our planet is discussed. 

I then shared an IMAX movie (Deep Sea) with the students so that they could get a sense of how incredible life in the ocean can be. They were fascinated by the predator/prey relationships, examples of symbiosis and the somersaulting manta rays! After the movie, students did some wonderful art work and writing.

NFPB 2014 The Mysteries of the Underwater World There's a Book for That

Other titles to share on this topic . . .

Another picture book biography:

Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A Nivola (published 2012)

I think this is a wonderful read aloud to share with upper primary (and older) students about finding your passion and making it your life’s work. I love this book for many reasons. The depiction of Earle’s curious childhood in the water, descriptions of moments in her life that truly shaped and changed her, beautiful and enticing illustrations and this very important message: “You can’t care if you don’t know.” In this story, this message applies to ecology and caring for our natural world but it is a message that applies to so many things. One worth thinking a lot about.

Life in the Ocean NFPB 2014 The Mysteries of the Underwater World There's a Book for That

Books to inspire wonder about the ocean world:

Coral Reefs by Jason Chin (published 2011)

Coral-Reefs NFPB 2014 The Mysteries of the Underwater World There's a Book for That

In One Tidepool: Crabs, Snails and Salty Tails By Anthony D Fredericks and illustrated by Jennifer DiRubbio (published in 2002)

In one Tidepool NFPB 2014 The Mysteries of the Underwater World There's a Book for That

My goal is to read 65 nonfiction picture books for 2014. Progress: 5/65 complete!

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2014! Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction titles.

NFPB 2014

15 thoughts on “Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: The mysteries of the underwater world

  1. I just love that your books had a theme. And I agree with you about biographies, if done well they strike a balance between inspiration and information. I’m going to steal that line from you. You might like A beam of Light, The story of Albert Einstein which does a great job balancing those ideas. It too, expresses the value of wondering. Thanks for sharing the great list of titles.

    • Thanks Gigi. The kids really loved the book and I thought it would be nice to show how this book can be used so successfully with a primary classroom. We enjoyed reading about Cousteau and they are still talking about it today!

  2. You’re adding more to my wish list, Carrie! I already saw about Manfish, but what wonderful details your students brought from the book! And Life In The Ocean does look great too. Thanks for all the extras about the ocean!

    • Hi Linda Must admit I was very pleased at how excited my students were to write, draw and talk about Manfish. We are continuing to learn about the Oceans and related environmental themes. This biography was the perfect jumping off point!

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