Exploring the Ocean’s Wonders

Michelle Cusolito has been bringing the undersea world into focus for children with the 2018 publication of her first book, “Flying Deep” (2018, Charlesbridge) a trip into the ocean aboard the submersible ALVIN. This true story earned the scientist and author the 2019 National Science Teachers Association recognition in the category of “outstanding science trade book for student.” She also received a Starred Review from Kirkus Best Books.

            On November 17, Cusolito introduced children and their parents to her second book, “Diving Deep,” which takes the young reader on the adventure of diving, using different types of equipment. “Diving Deep” (2022, Charlesbridge) is geared towards readers from ages five to nine.

            Here, Cusolito takes children (and adults) on a journey into the ocean, using snorkels, air tanks, aquanaut suits and even free diving. She introduces youngsters to animals and spaces under the surface of the ocean that they may see for themselves one day because anything is possible.

            As charming as these stories have been written, Cusolito doesn’t sugarcoat the realities of danger, ever present when entering the ocean and especially dives such as those taken by Challenger, which went to a depth of 6.8 miles.

            She talked to the children about the amount of pressure exerted on everything at that depth. To demonstrate that point, she displayed a Styrofoam cup that had been exposed to the ocean’s depth. It had shrunk to less than half its original size. She explained that submersibles like ALVIN and Challenger are pressured internally to withstand external pressures, a lesson she made accessible to the youngest of learners.

            Speaking to the children as she read aloud, Cusolito’s style respects their curiosity and intellect. There’s no baby talk but clear, honest and yes, fun information presented in a manner that engages them. Her positive effect was exemplified by the lack of squirmy little bodies.

            Cusolito’s first two books are wonderfully illustrated by Nicole Wong. Her third book, “Into The Deep Unknown: Exploring the Ocean Twilight Zone,” will be ready for release in the summer of 2023 and will be filled with photo illustrations as it chronicles Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s cutting-edge research.

            Not to be forgotten is the work Cusolito has done with Tri-Town public libraries. During the 2015-16 academic year, Cusolito, in partnership with the Tri-Town library directors, created the science-based program MOBY, which stands for My Own Backyard.

            Backpacks are filled with research materials for discovery projects in topics such as pollinators, make your own cranberry bog and ocean water. Retired library director Gail Roberts, who worked with that team, said of the program in a 2021 interview, “Marion, Rochester and Mattapoisett libraries collaborated with scientist and children’s author Michelle Cusolito for grant funding. The success of the program has helped to sustain, support and enrich children’s educational needs even during the most difficult of times, and it is still going strong.”

            Look for the backpacks at your local library.

            Cusolito tells her audiences, “We are wired to wonder!”

            And with her help and gift of presenting technical data in ways that people of all ages can comprehend, kids are bound to experience journeys of their own.

Joseph Plumb Memorial Library – Rochester

By Marilou Newell

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