"I had a blank canvas to fill with extraordinary possibilities." – MARIE THARP

MARIE'S OCEAN has been selected a BEST STEM BOOK OF 2021 by the NSTA and a 2021 NOTABLE SOCIAL STUDIES TRADE BOOK FOR YOUNG PEOPLE by the NCSS. These recognitions are a bright light in what has been a very difficult place in time. My father, who died in 2020, did not live to see this honor. He was my biggest fan even when life as a picture book illustrator and writer proved to be less than a fairy tale.  Thank you NSTA, NCSS, and The Children's Book Council.  My father would have been so very pleased and proud. 




NSTA Best STEM Book 2021


NCSS 2021 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People


Junior Library Guild Selection. 


Publishers Weekly 2020-2022 STEM/STEAM Biographies for Young Readers.


Kirkus Reviews describes MARIE'S OCEAN as "A winning combination of lyric description, accessible explanation, scientific history, feminism, and accomplishment."  

Full Kirkus Review


School Library Journal says: "James provides a deep dive into the STEM concepts and the detailed process that Tharp employed to show the world what lies at the bottom of our oceans. Highly recommended for public and school libraries."

Full SLJ Review


The Horn Book says: "...This empowering, accessible account of Tharp's career serves as a reminder that "sometimes it's hard to convince people to believe something new" –and shows readers precisely how the groundbreaking Tharp did just that."

Full Horn Book Review


More Reviews




Marie Tharp said about her groundbreaking work, "I had a blank canvas to fill with extraordinary possibilities."  I felt similarly when embarking upon my journey to tell her tale.  Tharp's life story is fascinating.  She was the first person to map the ocean floor and discovered the largest geological feature on earth; a rift valley which encircles the entire globe. Her astounding discovery supported the theory of continental drift which led to the unifying theory of plate tectonics. It was not an easy road, and Marie struggled to receive the credit she deserved for her discovery. From Marie Tharp's earliest childhood dreams all the way to her defining achievement, this is the story of one of earth science's greatest hidden figures.

The day the mid-atlantic ridge and I met

The plane windows framed the landscape of lava fields, still and stark against the grey-blue sky as the volcano, Fagradalsfjall, spewed bright orange molten lava out of its blackness. Solidified, dark fingers of land reached toward the ocean to form the jagged coast of the land of fire and ice. We had arrived in Iceland, the only place in the world where Marie Tharp's discovery, the largest geological feature on Earth, the Mid-Ocean Ridge and Rift Valley is visible about sea level.

My daughter, husband and I drove through the immense Icelandic landscape toward Thingvellir National Park to witness, with our own eyes, the miraculous Mid-Atlantic Ridge. As is common in Iceland, the clouds soon shrouded the surreal mountain terrain and it began to rain. Clad from head to toe in rain gear, we eagerly joined the other tourists down the wet and slippery path toward Almannagja (Everyman's Fault), a mighty geological presence, which forms one side of a rift valley within the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between the North American and Eurasian plates. 

We walked past the towering, jagged cliffs glossy with water. As we neared the heights of the viewing platform, the clouds miraculously lifted and the sun broke through illuminating Thingvellir's turbulent geological past, where over the millennia, the tectonic plates of Earth's crust pulled and is still pulling apart at a rate of about one inch per year. 

The expansive Thingvellir Lake rested peacefully in the distance. I stood in awe of the vision before me. In that moment it became clear that Thingvellir is a sacred place to which I had made a pilgrimage.  I whispered, "I am standing upon the Mid-Atlantic Ridge,"  in the hopes of convincing myself that I was not in a dream. I imagined more distinctly how Marie Tharp must have felt when she clearly saw a definite association of topography with seismicity within the maps she drew. 

Long before there was Alfred Wegener's theory of continental drift and Marie Tharp's discovery, which led to the unified theory of plate tectonics, Icelanders considered Thingvellir unique. They, too, must have sensed the presence of the powerful geological forces responsible for the configuration of Earth; for it was here that Icelanders first gathered to discuss and decide the laws at the first Althing Assembly. Since that first meeting in AD 930, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge Rift Valley has widened by 7 meters, about 23 feet, due to tectonic movement. Thingvellir, Icelandic for Parliament Plains, is home to the world's longest continuous assemblies, 850 years, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.

I am so grateful to have had this dream come true.  I want to thank my amazing husband for surprising me with a flight to Iceland (a belated 30 wedding anniversary gift).  I also want to thank our gracious hosts at Guesthouse Geldingaholt for treating us like family, feeding us like kings, and making our stay in Iceland unforgettable.  We travel to see the sights but more importantly we travel to meet the people who live in the places we dream of visiting. Thank you Sigga and Gummi. 


I have been writing and illustrating as JoAnn Adinolfi for a long time and it felt right to move forward into a new chapter of writing and illustrating with a name that gives me strength and confidence, so I combined my parents' names. I hope that all the books I create as Josie James demonstrate joy, humor, creativity, and integrity, and bring stories to life in the best tradition of children's literature. Remembering names and lives well-lived is the joy of story telling.