Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Seeing The Truth

Sometimes progress in human history seems to be moving backward at a greater distance than it is moving ahead.  At times like this it is important to remember the great strides made by those who resided on this planet before us.  They stood strong in their determination, inching forward, true to their beliefs in themselves and in their pursuits.  They found a way around or through obstacles. For this, we are grateful.

One such person was a geologist, a student of Earth in all its forms, past and present, and a cartographer, a maker of maps.  She entered these fields knowing they were generally followed by men.  Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed The Ocean's Biggest Secret (Tundra, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers, June 30, 2020) words by Jess Keating with pictures by Katie Hickey gives readers insight into the struggles a woman can have following her dream, but also the benefits of maintaining focus and not wavering.

The beach was a blanket of squishy, soft sand, and Marie wanted to feel it under her feet.
Shoes off.
Socks off.
The ocean stretched out before her, like a big blue mystery.

Whenever her father went traveling outdoors for his work, Marie loved to be at his side.  Her perspective of the world expanded with every adventure.  Her curiosity continued to grow.  She was certain she wanted to understand the same kind of things her father did, even if girls were deterred from doing do.  (Marie tried art, but the sciences were her true passion.)

During wartime with many men gone, avenues opened for women.  Finally, Marie could study subjects which interested her.  She got her first job in a lab in New York.  Unfortunately, with the war now over, men were sent in the field to do research.  Marie had to stay in the lab.  Can you believe that they thought having a woman on a boat was bad luck?  She longed to be on the research ship exploring the ocean floor.

Data from the ship was sent back in boxes to the office.  It was Marie's job to plot those soundings (depth measurements) point after point.  She worked tirelessly at her desk, creating a map of the ocean floor.  She reveled in her discoveries.  One had her definitely puzzled.

She found a deep indentation with mountains on either side on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.  A colleague said it could not be true.  Marie meticulously redid the map with the same results.  Her drawing, her plotted points, seemed to support a theory of the movements of continents.  When a famous explorer of all aspects of the ocean failed to disprove Marie's map, the world embraced her accomplishments.  Beneath the waters of the ocean was geology's most wondrous formation.  Marie's quest for knowledge and truth changed her world then and changed our world now.

With every word author Jess Keating writes she demonstrates her keen insight into the hearts and minds of her young readers.  She weaves facts found in her research into an inspirational narrative.  Jess Keating builds on a young girl's love of exploration and interest in all Earth offers, layer by layer.  She points to specific incidents bringing us into this woman's world, her challenges and how she faced them.  Her poetic descriptions will have you cheering for this woman's achievements in the face of adversity.  Here are two sets of passages.

Marie's fingertips became stained with ink. Eraser
shavings fell to the floor.  Her drafting lamps hummed
beside her.

Instead of the vast, open ocean,
she dove into her tiny, cramped office.

Instead of crashing waves,
she sailed through reams of smooth paper. 

From flap edge to flap edge on the dust jacket and edge to edge on the open and matching book case, illustrator Katie Hickey in hues of blues and greens with touches of yellow portrays the mysterious undersea world mapped by Marie Tharp, complete with valleys and mountains.  The underlying graph paper lines in white are a brilliant design choice.  And there is Marie Tharp gliding over the world she plotted with paper and writing utensil in hand.  Her mouth is open, perhaps exclaiming a joyful remark.  The main title text is embossed in foil.

On the opening and closing endpapers is an eloquent map of the world in shades of blues, greens, and yellows.  Lines are shown here, too.  You can see the darker sections indicating the mountain ranges and rifts.  It is similar to the painting of the map credited to Heezen and Tharp by Berann now held at the Library of Congress.

These illustrations rendered

with watercolor, pencil and mono-printing, and assembled digitally

are stunning in their fine details, use of color and textured layers.  We easily step into the world of Marie Tharp through these pictures.  We understand her purpose and her place.

The pictures span two pages, full pages and sometimes several smaller visuals are grouped together on a single page.  At one point there is a gatefold that creates a dramatic effect.  The perspectives are varied to place emphasis on the pacing. 

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  An enormous blackboard framed in wood covers nearly the entire space.  On it are a variety of scientific equations and diagrams in white chalk.  On either page is a stack of books, spines with titles facing outward.  On top of one is a globe.  On top of the other is a teapot and cup.  On the right side Marie, with her back to us, is standing on a wooden step stool, balancing on one foot.  Her other leg and arm are outstretched for balance.  In her left hand she is writing with chalk on the board.  (This illustration is for the text recounting how women were able to pursue areas of study generally reserved for men because of the war.)

Even today, women struggle for equality.  For some it is much harder than for others, but this book, Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed The Ocean's Biggest Secret words by Jess Keating and pictures by Katie Hickey, will inspire readers to follow their dreams, building on the success of this woman.  At the close of the book is an Author's Note, Questions And Answers and Further Reading.  There is also a link to the Library of Congress so you can see the painting housed there.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.  For a study of this woman or to extend a storytime pair this with Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor written by Robert Burleigh with illustrations by Raul Colon.

To discover more about Jess Keating and Katie Hickey and their other work, please access their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  Jess Keating has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitterand YouTube.  Katie Hickey has accounts on Instagram, and Twitter.  Here is one of the videos you can find on Jess Keating's YouTube channel.

UPDATE:  Courtesy of author Jess Keating enjoy Marie Tharp's Seafloor: A Story Map for Marie Tharp's 100th Birthday, Maureen Raymo Reads "Ocean Speaks," A Children's Picture Book About Marie Tharp and at the Tundra Books Instagram account you can see early artwork by the illustrator.

Please take a few moments to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher this week to view the selections by the other participants in the 2020 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

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