Ocean Speaks: Marie Tharp and the Map that Moved the Earth by Jess Keating, Illus. by Katie Hickey

Review by Logaine Navascués

Tundra Books, Penguin Random House, 30 June 2020

40 pages, hardcover, $21.99 CAD, 978-0-73526-509-7

Ages 4-8, Grades Pre K-3

Picture Book, Non-Fiction

The ocean is a big blue mystery and Marie wants to unravel it. She is used to investigating the countryside with her father, but the sea is different: she can hear it calling, although she still cannot understand what it says. In Ocean Speaks, Jess Keating and Katie Hickey introduce Marie Tharpe, a curious girl who wants to be a scientist and explorer in a world ruled by boys. As the story continues, we follow Marie’s struggles to fulfill her dreams until she becomes the first person to map the bottom of the ocean and makes two amazing discoveries: a giant underwater mountain range and a rift that will later help prove the movement of plates underneath the Earth’s surface. Alongside these finds, Marie also contributes significantly to the slow movement towards egalitarian rights for women in the scientific world.

Keating’s prose succeeds in giving a straightforward and informative account of Marie’s challenges and achievements through a tender, somewhat innocent voice that helps us connect with her inner world. Hickey’s detailed and saturated illustrations submerge us in a reflection of Tharp’s mind: a space of intertwined objects, emotions, and ideas. As the creation of the map takes over Marie’s life, the grid takes hold of the spreads, becoming the background for several consecutive pages. Here, word and image come together to recreate Marie’s personal voyage, which she is not allowed to do aboard a boat because of being a woman, but that she still manages to carry out through hard work and determination.

This inspiring picture book biography includes an author’s note that delves deeper into Marie Tharpe’s history and provides resources for further reading. It also answers questions regarding her mapping process and how she learned to listen to the ocean speak. It is a great read for K-3 students who want to learn more about the ocean and a woman’s important role in the scientific field.

Ocean Speak: Marie Tharp and the Map the Moved the Earth is available in stores and online June 30th, 2020!


Logaine Navascués is a Peruvian artist, writer, creative director, teacher and book maker, currently living in Vancouver. She is the proud mother of a beautiful daughter and two artist’s books. You can find her reading, collecting picturebooks and eating chocolate while pursuing her MA in Children’s Literature at UBC.


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