Review of Marie's Ocean: Marie Tharp Maps the Mountains Under the Sea

Marie’s Ocean: Marie Tharp Maps the Mountains Under the Sea
by Josie James; illus. by the author
Primary, Intermediate    Ottaviano/Holt    48 pp.    g
9/20    978-1-250-21473-7    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-1-250-80619-2    $9.99

This picture-book biography of geologist and oceanographic cartographer Marie Tharp (1920–2006), who revolutionized the world’s understanding of the ocean’s floor, begins with a child asking the adult “Miss Tharp” about her career. The page-turn then brings us to Marie as a child. She is a curious (James shows her talking to grasshoppers, cumulonimbus clouds, and imagined ship figureheads) and determined girl who, despite being dismissed because of her gender, knows she’ll “turn the world of geography upside down.” James dives into Tharp’s postsecondary studies to earn multiple degrees, then into her work at Columbia University to plot sounding data of the ocean floor, which led to her discovery of rift valleys on the sea floor and radically changed the scientific community’s views on the theory of continental drift. Tharp’s work with physiographic diagrams is explained in a detailed and easily understandable way, and the ­illustrations — rendered in a comics-style format with an effective use of panels and speech balloons — incorporate maps of the ocean floor. Most of the backgrounds are based on Tharp’s original works. This empowering, accessible account of Tharp’s career serves as a reminder that “sometimes it’s hard to convince people to believe something new” — and shows readers precisely how the groundbreaking Tharp did just that. Appended are an afterword, a selected bibliography, photos, and source notes.

Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson writes about picture books at the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. She also writes for Kirkus Reviews and BookPage and is a lecturer for the School of Information Sciences graduate program at the University of Tennessee. Her book Wild Things!: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, written with Betsy Bird and Peter D. Sieruta, was published in 2014.

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