The mysteries of the ocean and earth have beckoned Marie Tharp since she was a little girl, but she is growing up in a time when women are not encouraged to dream of becoming scientists. When World War II takes the men away, Marie is serendipitously allowed to dive into a world of scientific study. Soon she is working with researchers to create a map of the ocean floor. Although not allowed on the research trips because “women were considered bad luck on ships,” Marie experiences the ocean intimately with each point she carefully plots on her map. Her diligence leads to the discovery of a deep rift valley between mountainous peaks on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. At first, her colleagues don’t agree with her findings. Jacques Cousteau even sets out to prove her wrong by filming the ocean floor. But Marie’s map is right, and her work inspires other scientists to discover additional secrets of the ocean floor.
Ocean Speaks is beautifully written and majestically illustrated. Jess Keating chooses the words on each page so intentionally readers can almost sense the undulating rhythm of the waves as they navigate the story. Katie Hickey’s flow of turquoise illustrations throughout the book enhance this sensation. I highly recommend this book. Junior and Intermediate teachers will find it to be a powerful mentor text for writer’s craft. It is a wonderful choice for a read aloud.
Ocean Speaks is also an excellent choice for its clear connections to the Ontario curriculum. For educators teaching grades 5 and 6, this text is an exceptional example of a biography, writing and media expectation respectively. The Author’s Note section at the end of the book offers greater detail regarding Marie’s story and the acceptance of her map. For Grade 7 teachers, it addresses overall and specific expectations in the Physical Patterns in a Changing World strand, for example understanding natural processes that create Earth’s physical features. For all upper elementary grades, Marie Tharp’s story is a model of perseverance and passion in the face of adversity. It opens the door to rich discussions about gender equity, past and present. I highly recommend diving deep into this book.
Launa Lopez is a member of Thames Valley Teacher Local.