General Book Information
Author: Robert Burleigh
Illustrator: Raul Colon
Lexile Score: 750
Who is Marie Tharp?
In part driven by her father’s mapmaking career, Marie Tharp became a cartographer (mapmaker) herself. But, instead of mapping the Earth’s land, she decided to do something no one else had ever done: she mapped the world’s oceans.
With the assistance of other scientist’s, including her long-time collaborator Bruce Hezeen, depth measurements, she mapped the ocean floor over the course of twenty years (1957 to 1977), culminating in a final production painted by an artist. The map itself remains both a useful scientific discovery and a fun art piece.
My wife and I like to emphasize “women in STEM” with our daughter’s nighttime readings. Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea was an excellent addition to that sequence.
Robert Burleigh brings to life for children the inspiring story of ocean topographer Marie Tharp. The first-person point of view encourages children to envision Ms. Tharp’s scientific energy. Burleigh also offers readers a glimpse into the motivations behind Tharp’s passion for science.
Her story would be inspirational whether or not she was a woman. But, being a woman does enhance it since female scientists were not always highly regarded during the 1940’s and even the following decades.
Burleigh does not shy away from this. In fact, he even incorporates it into the story: “We don’t need more file clerks” and “having a woman on a ship is bad luck…wasn’t science supposed to be free of silly superstitions?”
He also does not shy away from the science. Burleigh describes in easy-to-understand language scientific terms such as soundings and plate tectonics.
Raul Colon’s illustrations are well-done. They depict the text visually in a way that enhances young reader’s comprehension. My personal favorite is Tharp, as a young child, reviewing a map and surveying the landscape. Of course, this picture is accompanied by the text: “Maps. I love them!”. How appropriate.
In addition to the story and illustrations, the book includes additional content at the end that further enhances the learning and enjoyment. The content includes additional biographical information, learning activities, and a scientific glossary.
Oceans is an easy to read introductory book to the world’s oceans. Young readers can learn more about the world Marie Tharp devoted her life to mapping.
Soundings is a great complimentary book for adults to read. It, too, is about Marie Tharp but targets older readers. Combined, adults and children can have a wonderful conversation about Marie Tharp and her scientific contributions.
Or, you can check out our list of recent 28 best science biographies for kids (which includes Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea)