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Lit_Solving the puzzle

Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Raúl Colón. Simon & Schuster, 2016. 40 pages.

Picture book biographies tackle such interesting subjects! Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea shows how the undersea map we take for granted in elementary school these days first came to be.

Marie Tharp, inheriting her map-making father’s love of cartography, wanted to map the ocean’s floor–something that had never been done. Unfortunately, when Tharp was entering the workforce, women weren’t sought after as scientists and some still believed that a woman on board ship was unlucky!

Tharp’s friend Bruce shared the soundings he took, and Tharp worked to place them on a map. Even though Bruce disagreed with Tharp’s hypothesis about the tectonic plates, he helped her persevere through the decades to painstakingly map the Atlantic ocean floor. When her work was complete, her map helped prove the existence of the tectonic plates and their continual activity.

Raúl Colón’s illustrations add a lovely, watery feel to this story told in first person. With one exception, Tharp is depicted looking at her work or off the screen rather than directly at the reader. The reader is therefore drawn to also look at her work rather than directly at her. Burleigh alludes to Tharp’s uphill road against various challenges without making those challenges the driving point of the story. Rather, the reader is fully drawn into Tharp’s passion and story, not into a history or anthropological lesson.

End matter includes a thorough note on “Marie Tharp, Scientist,” a glossary, a bibliography, internet links, and “things to wonder about and do,” ensuring that this is a book that draws the young reader to follow in Marie’s footsteps. Recommended for 2nd-4th grade.