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The Aquanaut: 08/29/22
The Aquanaut by Dan Santat (2022) is a middle grade novel about a group of land explorers trying to help a girl. The explorers in question are sea creatures in an old fashioned diving suit. The girl is Sophia, whose father died at sea while on a research mission.
The majority of the story is set at Aqualand, a marine park reminiscent of Sea World in the 1970s and early 1980s before it was sold to a variety of larger commericial ventures (HBJ publishing, and Anheuser Busch). Both parks, fictional and real, tried to balance research and entertainment. At Aqualand it's the study of a giant squid vs. being an amusement park. It's basically a simplified retelling of Sea World's history, but with a different ending.
All of this, though, is told primarily though the point of view of the titular aquanaut. It's an old dive suit that's been transformed by some industrious sea creatures into a mecha. The aquanaut befriends Sophie and together they help her uncle, make some tough decisions about his life, career, and family.
This alternate timeline not-quite-Sea World story thrives on Dan Santat's retro styled artwork. For parents (or grandparents) reading this book with their children (or grandchildren) who grew up in San Diego, they will recognize the park as it once was.
With this being a literal fish out of water adventure story with a strong environmental message, older readers might also be reminded of The Man From Atlantis that was on air about the same time that Sea World went through its first set of major changes.