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The Picture Book Buzz

Secrets of the Sea - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

I have always been fascinated by the sea. I love spending hours listening to the waves, swimming, snorkeling, and of course hunting for shells and rocks. Especially when I could do it with my grandparents. I still have the fossilized clam shell my grandmother and I found.

So I was totally enthralled by this cover! Although I knew nothing about Jeanne Power, I fell in love with her story and she has become a hero of mine. A fellow strong personality who loved nature and the ocean.

It is my pleasure and honor to be able to give you a sneak peek at this fun biography of a determined scientist whose method of research has touched millions, even if they don't realize it - yet. The book releases March 9th.

Secrets of the Sea: The Story of Jeanne Power, Revolutionary Marine Scientist

Author: Evan Griffith

Illustrator: Joanie Stone

Publisher: Clarion Books/HMH (2021)

Ages: 6-9



Marine science, persistence, discrimination, and aquarium invention.


The curiosity, drive, and perseverance of the nineteenth-century woman scientist who pioneered the use of aquariums to study ocean life are celebrated in this gorgeous, empowering picture book.

How did a nineteenth-century dressmaker revolutionize science? Jeanne Power was creative: she wanted to learn about the creatures that swim beneath the ocean waves, so she built glass tanks and changed the way we study underwater life forever. Jeanne Power was groundbreaking: she solved mysteries of sea animals and published her findings at a time when few of women’s contributions to science were acknowledged. Jeanne Power was persistent: when records of her research were lost, she set to work repeating her studies. And when men tried to take credit for her achievements, she stood firm and insisted on the recognition due to her.

Jeanne Power was inspiring, and the legacy of this pioneering marine scientist lives on in every aquarium.

Opening Lines:

Jeanne curled her toes in the sand

and gazed out across the deep blue

Mediterranean Sea.

Gentle waves washed the shore.

A salty breeze whooshed like a

whispered secret.

It was her first day in Sicily.

What I LOVED about this book:

I love the way Evan Griffith quickly encapsulated the strong will, sharp mind, and determination of Jeanne Powers. After marrying and moving to Sicily, Jeanne decided to quit being a dressmaker. To try something new. She decided to become a naturalist. Even though women were discouraged from being scientists, Jeanne did it any way. She taught herself, observed, and journaled the animals and plants of Sicily.

Text © Evan Griffith, 2021. Image © Joanie Stone, 2021.

But that wasn't enough for Jeanne. She wanted to study what lay under the ocean. Not the dead bodies that washed ashore, but live specimens. It had never been done. Undeterred, Jeanne employed her dressmaking skills to design and build some of the first aquariums for sea life study. Joanie Stone's rich, lovely illustrations capture the inquisitiveness and spirit of a woman enthralled by nature and determined to learn its secrets. There's almost a whimsical quality to Joanie's depictions of the flora and fauna of Sicily, especially Jeanne's pet tortoise.

Text © Evan Griffith, 2021. Image © Joanie Stone, 2021.

With her aquariums, Jeanne studied the life cycle of the richly colored paper nautilus and solved a long-running debate about whether it made its shell or stole it. After patiently watching and recording, she proved the nautilus created their shells. This and other discoveries impressed scientists at the academy, and unlike many women of the time, she became their first female member. Tragically, in a move to England, most of her research, notes, and findings were lost at sea.

Text © Evan Griffith, 2021. Image © Joanie Stone, 2021.

Undaunted, Jeanne returned to Sicily and conducted her experiment again. This time . . . well, you'll have to see for yourself what this persistent, determined, strong and willful woman accomplished. In addition to a note on Jeanne's life and her legacy, the back matter includes information on the paper nautilus, and current marine biology and conservation. A note on historical research highlights contradictory information and explains which one Evan felt was correct. Overall, Evan and Joanie have created a wonderful tribute to a remarkable scientist who made amazing discoveries, broke barriers, and refused to back down. An inquisitive soul who helped spark curiosity about the sea and its secrets for millions of people.


- take a virtual fieldtrip to an aquarium ( or when it's safe, visit an aquarium.

- watch some aquarium animal videos ( either of a favorite animal or one that is new to you. Like Jeanne Powers, record what you observed.

- when it's safe, visit a tidepool and record the plants and animals you find. Then read Down Under the Pier by Nell Cross Beckerman, illustrated by Rachell Sumpter. Compare the plants and animals you found to the ones in that book.

If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's joint interview with Evan Griffith (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Book Launch:

Join Evan and Joanie Saturday March 13th at 11:00 am CT to celebrate the release of Secrets of the Sea: The Story of Jeanne Power, Revolutionary Marine Scientist, a picture book biography written by Evan Griffith and illustrated by Joanie Stone!

There will be a presentation, a reading, some fun and games, and a special guest appearance by author and Vermont College of Fine Arts faculty member Mary Quattlebaum. Families, friends, librarians, readers–all are welcome! Register at:


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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