The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau

Written By: Dan Yaccarino

Before Reading

Explore Illustrations

Before you begin your read-through, take a moment to look over the cover and illustrations throughout the story. Allow your child to make predictions about the story by asking:

What do you think this story will be about?

Jacques isn’t wearing regular clothes. What is he wearing? Why do you think he is wearing them?

[Flip to a certain page] What do you think is happening on this page?

This story is about what is under the sea. Can you name some animals that live in the sea?



Tell your child that the story you are about to read is a biography and ask if s/he knows what that means. If not, say that a biography is a story about a real person that is written by someone else. Jacques Cousteau was a famous undersea explorer and this story documents how he began his adventures. Look in the back of the book for more information on the events of his life, as well as more resources for further research.

As You Read

Vocabulary Building:

Allow your child to stop when they come to an unfamiliar word. Encourage him/her to discover the meaning of the word using the words and illustrations surrounding it. Examples of new words in The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau include:




Jacques travels to many different places to uncover the secrets of the undersea world. To help your child appreciate the extent of his travels, use a map to help your child follow the journey of Jacques and his team. Start by finding where you are on the map and then find France so that your child knows where Jacques is from. Then every time Jacques mentions a new place, show your child where it is on the map. For example, when Jacques explores the waters of Antarctica, you can show your child where that is on the map and say, “Wow, Jacques traveled all the way to Antarctica to see what he could find in the sea there.”

Making Connections:

You can make the story more engaging by relating Jacques’ experiences to your child’s own life. For example, when Jacques first starts looking underwater and realizes that the existing equipment isn’t ideal for what he wants to do, ask your child, “Can you think of a time when you had a problem and needed to find a way to fix it? What did you do? How do you think Jacques is going to fix his problem?”

After Reading

Summarize and Interpret:  

To gauge your child’s retention and comprehension of the story, ask questions like:

How did Jacques first get interested in life under water?

What is the Aqua-lung? How does it help him underwater?

Why did he go to so many different places?

How did Jacques share his adventures with the world?

Jacques’ adventures demonstrate the importance of curiosity and innovation. To further discuss these themes, ask your child, “Why did Jacques invent the Aqua-lung and his own underwater camera? What would have happened if he hadn’t worked hard to make them?” If your child has already visited the ocean, recall what your experience at sea was like. If not, spend time talking about whether (or not!) this book made your child want to explore the ocean in the future. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a look at Ocean on Google Earth to virtually explore what Jacques Cousteau saw!

Activity: Paper Plate Aquarium Porthole

Adapted from Craft Project Idea

Supplies: 2 heavy-weight paper plates, paintbrush, blue and grey paint, scissors, clear plastic sheet, glue, brown and tan beads, multi-colored pipe cleaners, shimmer poms, wiggly eyes and foam sheets

This activity will let your child feel like Jacques exploring the undersea world through this fun and colorful homemade porthole.  

  1. Use your scissors to cut a large hole in the middle of a paper plate.
  2. Turn the cut plate over and paint it silver. Then, paint the middle of another plate light blue.
  3. Make several sea creatures for the porthole by cutting out fins or legs from the foam sheets. Then glue them to the shimmer poms along with the wiggly eyes.
  4. Twist the pipe cleaners into interesting shapes to look like coral.
  5. Glue brown and tan beads along the bottom of the blue plate to create sand for the ocean floor.     
  6. Next, glue your creatures and coral onto the plate. Be sure not to glue any shapes onto the rim of the plate.
  7. Cut a piece of a plastic sheet that is slightly larger than the hole in the silver plate. Turn the silver plate over and glue the sheet to it. Glue the silver plate to the blue one and top your porthole off by gluing grey beads around the opening to look like nuts and bolts!
  8. Hang up your porthole on a wall and your child can pretend to be on an underwater adventure just like Jacques!