Rochester author brings young readers to new depths

Jun 3, 2022

ROCHESTER – “Diving Deep: Using Machines to Explore the Ocean” isn’t just the name of Rochester resident Michelle Cusolito’s newest children’s book – it’s something she experienced firsthand through her research.

Cusolito learned to scuba dive herself, swimming 10 meters down among colorful fish, seaweed, and even coming face-to-face with an octopus.

“Diving Deep” is the sequel to her first book, “Flying Deep,” which is specifically about the deep-sea submersible called Alvin.

Submersibles are small submarines that take humans to the deep ocean.

“Diving Deep” is a broader look at the ways that humans can explore the ocean and answers the question of why people do that. Cusolito says the first page is about snorkeling, and with each page, the book takes the reader deeper under the water until the final page, which is the “deepest dive.”

In addition to diving herself, Cusolito interviewed a variety of experts, which she says is important to getting every detail correct. She also had five different experts fact-check her manuscript.

Cusolito says that she’s always been interested in deep sea biology. When she first started college at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, her major was in marine biology, but then she switched to teaching after needing “more creativity” in her life.

“I got to do a lot of science instruction with my elementary schoolers,” she said. Before becoming a children’s author, Cusolito taught fourth-graders in Plymouth. It was there that she met someone who worked on Alvin, and invited him to come speak to her class.

“I was really fascinated,” she said. “I wanted to learn more and my kids did too.”

Cusolito says that writing children’s books was a natural progression – she sees it as a way of sharing something she’s excited about with kids, which is what she loved about being a teacher.

Now, she writes children’s books full time, though she’s an adjunct professor at Simmons University where she teaches a course in writing for children and young adults.

Cusolito just finished writing her third book, which is in the editing process, and will be a book about the ocean’s twilight zone for middle grade readers. Cusolito describes the twilight zone as “the middle layer” on the way to the seafloor, about 200 to 1,000 meters deep where there is little light. There isn’t enough light for plants to grow, but there are plenty of animals.

For this book, Cusolito took a trip to Vigo, Spain, to join a research expedition focused on the ocean’s twilight zone.

This expedition was during a “spring bloom” in the North Atlantic, where there was what Cusolito called “a big explosion of plankton near the surface.” Scientists studied what happens during the bloom and as the plankton dies and sinks to the twilight zone. They also brought up those sea animals from the twilight zone to study, including a strawberry squid – which makes an appearance in “Diving Deep.”

Cusolito says that the reason she’s able to continue to write about the ocean is that it’s “very diverse.” She says a common misconception is that it’s all the same underwater, but there are actually a variety of ecosystems and distinct differences between regions, just like there are on land.

“I really love writing nonfiction for children,” said Cusolito. “I love sharing cool things about the world.”

“Diving Deep” will be available on June 14. Interested readers can pre-order a copy through Eight Cousins by June 8 to receive a signed copy and a limited edition strawberry squid print.