Summary: The Aquanaut
The Aquanaut is Dan Santat’s latest graphic novel. Sophia has been hanging out in Aqualand, the marine theme park her late father and uncle started. Her uncle is doing his best to finish Sophia’s late father’s marine project and Sophia seems to have little or no zest for school work. Imagine her shock when a diving suit controlled by sea creatures appears in Aqualand.
It turns out the suit is controlled by sea creatures who’ve come to Aqualand looking for a place to call home. Unfortunately, they discover that Aqualand doesn’t treat sea creatures in the best way. Now, they’ll need Sophia and her uncle to help them find their way to safety. But Sophia’s uncle is under pressure from investors to keep up the tourist attractions in the park. Can they do the right thing?
I’m not a fantasy reader, but this one drew me in — and I have to say, I’ve never read anything so inventive and poignant. I felt like this could easily be an animated movie. Santat explores a ton of important themes in the story without being preachy or in the readers’ faces. As much as Sophia is the story’s lead, the stars of the story are undoubtedly the sea creatures behind the aquanaut and I liked that.
The book starts off with Sophia’s father dying/being left behind at sea by his brother because they couldn’t reach him and that’s definitely a tough scene to read. Still, it’s well handled and shouldn’t cause more heartbreak than the parental deaths in Disney movies, which kids tolerate fairly well.
I liked the mystery of the aquanaut and how haunting and realistic the illustrations in this book are. The book doesn’t shy away from highlighting how humans harm marine life and place their entertainment ahead of the safety of these creatures. Finally, I loved the satisfying resolution and what it meant for Sophie and her uncle, Paul.
Overall: The Aquanaut
The Aquanaut is a moving, emotion-packed graphic novel about grief, the environment, marine life, and family. I really enjoyed it and I think young readers will love this one. Author and illustrator, Dan Santat has crafted a deeply personal (see his Author’s Note) story inspired by his relationship with his father and the care that went into this work is palpable throughout the story. The illustrations are out of this world and there’s a touch of humor throughout this story. Readers will leave feeling inspired to care more about the environment but also hug their loved ones as tightly as they can.