Monday, June 22, 2020

Spring Reading 2020 Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean's Biggest Secret

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Jess Keating has a knack for finding topics that kids will enjoy reading about. The World of Weird Animals series, for example, introduces them to blob fish, axolotls, and snot otters. She also loves to share the stories of female scientists that may not be commonly known, such as Shark Lady, Eugenie Clark. This time around she has put together a look at Marie Tharp's use of depth soundings to map the floor of the ocean and the amazing secrets that map revealed.

The details about Marie's early explorations with her father help to show how her curiosity became strong enough to overcome the limitations placed on girls and women of her day. The need for women to enter the work force during the war is one that appears in many stories from the past(Hidden Figures, Code Girls, etc.), and could lead to a unit of study or independent research on the topic. Her perseverance in spite of those limits and the disbelief and even being told her work was wrong is an excellent example for young people.

The text offers wonderful stylistic points for students to emulate in their own writing. The alliterative series "forests and farmhouses, boulders and birdcalls, wheat fields and waterfalls" paints a vivid mental image of her adventures with her father. A later series similarly lists all the topics she plunged into when science and math were made more open to female students. The use of figurative language  such as "she swam through bottles of pitch black ink" also makes a wonderful connection between Marie's work in the office and the ocean that she was mapping.

Scenes of a young Marie sticking together her sculpture with bubble gum contrast with her exuberance in covering a chalkboard with equations once she is allowed to study what interests her. The books stacked near the chalkboard reflect her interests as well - showing titles by Aristotle, Darwin, and Einstein. Those figurative journeys she took in her office are depicted with Marie standing on a large paper boat or surrounded by clouds of calculations. The watercolor and pencil illustrations capture the mood on every page.

Back matter includes a photo of Marie, an author's note about Marie's work and how it was initially rejected, and then finally recognized as correct. There are a few Q&A about sonar and ocean mapping, the mid-ocean ridge, and women as scientists. Several suggestions for further reading, as well as the URL to view Marie's maps on the Library of Congress website are also provided.

This is an excellent book for those looking to highlight female contributions to science; for units on mapping, geology, and plate tectonics; or as a mentor text for writing.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.

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