Life in the Ocean, The Story of Oceanographer SYLVIA EARLE – PPBF

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oceanTitle: Life in the Ocean, The Story of Oceanographer SYLVIA EARLE

Written by and illustrated by: Claire A. Nivola

Published in Canada by: D&M Publishers, Inc., 2012

Themes/Topics: women marine biologists, biography, women explorers, the ocean

Suitable for ages: 7-11


Seen from above, Earth’s land seems to float like an island on a vast sea—there is so much more blue than green. Hidden below the surface of that ocean lies an immense watery world. Catching the sun’s light at first, then cold and utterly black in its depths, the sea covers mountains taller, plains broader, and valleys steeper than any here on land.


Life in the Ocean is a biography about Sylvia Earle, an oceanographer. It begins by talking of Sylvia’s early years on a New Jersey farmland her love of the outdoors. The family then moves to Clearwater, Florida and meeting all the mew marine life in the Gulf of Mexico “softened the blow of leaving the farm” (the book also uses direct quotes from Sylvia to give readers a greater feel for her personality and passion).

 Sylvia’s love of deepwater diving increased throughout her teens and this impacted her career choice as she entered adulthood. During her years as an oceanographer, she spent over seven thousand hours underwater exploring many oceans across the globe. This book reveals her close encounters underwater, such as when she came within inches of a humpback whale, gray angelfish, and parrot fish, among others. Sylvia’s discoveries and observations are recorded, including differences in marine life at different depths of the ocean. The book expresses Sylvia’s appreciation for the marine life rarely encountered by humans and the need for respect and care of the oceans due to the dependence of humans and land animals on life in the ocean. According to the book, only five percent of ocean water has been explored. transitioning into adulthood, and how her experiences encompassed who she became. The story examines Sylvia’s career and accomplishments  weaving informative marine facts throughout.

Why I like This Book:

This is a beautifully written and illustrated biography of a strong woman scientist, which is inspirational for children. The ocean can feel vast and inhospitable to humans and this book helps demystify yet retain the magic of the ocean.

The illustration style is a breathtaking – delicate and whimsical watercolors are especially powerful in the panoramic underwater scenes, where Sylvia becomes one with the sea creatures. Other pages are filled with small animals and objects, which can get a little lost around the text but will be of interest to budding young marine biologists.

This book pays homage not only to Sylvia Earle’s work, but to the incredible ecosystem of the oceans as well and their interdependence with the rest of the planet.


  • Back matter includes a bibliography and an author’s note that describes Sylvia’s concern that ignorance is at the root for our casual misuse of the ocean and her call to us to protect “the blue heart of the planet. This book provides reasons to care about this huge magical part of our planet.
  • I would include this on units about the ocean, ecosystems and jobs!
  • Beyond Penguins –hands on activities and lesson plans about oceans
  • Proteacher ocean unit

EARTH DAY 2015, is coming up on Wed, April 22nd, so I am reviewing a series of book leading up to this that you may wish to incorporate into your celebration.

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

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16 Responses to Life in the Ocean, The Story of Oceanographer SYLVIA EARLE – PPBF

  1. I love biographies, and this cover is so inviting. My first attempt at ocean snorkeling (after growing up swimming in the ocean just minutes from my house), left me flat on my bum at the shoreline, shocked at what I saw with goggles swimming around my ankles! Haha!

  2. I love biographies about strong and unique women scientists like Sylvia Earle. She is such important role model for children. This book looks beautiful. I think many kids have a fascination with the ocean and wonder what lurks beneath. They are a significant life force for the planet and it’s important for the next generations of children to want to protect them. Nice choice for Earth Day!

  3. Wendy Greenley says:

    I was born in NJ, too, but I’ve never heard of this woman. Interesting that it’s a Canadian publisher that picked the story! If I had my way, I’d be snorkeling every day and will want to check this book out!

    • Joanna says:

      Right, I am surprised that we haven’t heard more about Sylvia Earle. The water is warming up for more snorkeling days, Wendy!

  4. Andrea says:

    I’ve read about her before — such an interesting choice for a biography! Love the cover, too! I will have to look for this one!

  5. Great choice for Almost Earth Day. And I love that you focused on a woman scientist.

  6. Manju Howard says:

    I was surprised to learn that “only five percent of ocean water has been explored.” Thanks for sharing!

  7. Joanne Sher says:

    The language sounds lyrical – and I love that. And I am fascinated by the ocean (of course). This looks like a fabulous pick. Thanks, Joanna!

  8. Clarbojahn says:

    I love picture book biographies and I think your selection will speak to many kids. I love your selection, Joanna! 🙂

  9. Living surrounded by ocean we sometimes take it for granted what lives beneath. I love that this is an autobiography, always interesting, and the cover is lovely. Thanks for sharing Joanna.

  10. Pingback: EARTH DAY, 2015 on Miss Marple’s Musings – How will you celebrate? | Miss Marple's Musings

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