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Hooked on Books with Jess Keating

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Hooked on Books with Jess Keating

When we talk about exploring the unknown and meeting “aliens,” most people think of outer space. But there’s an area here on Earth, too, that still has many mysteries – the ocean! That’s why this week’s Hooked on Books is dedicated to Jess Keating’s new book, Ocean Speaks, which tells the story of Marie Tharp, a woman who persevered to explore an ocean in a time when women were not welcome in the sciences, or on research ships. 

Jess Keating is a zoologist-turned-author who writes with the sort of wisdom you can only get from multiple crocodile bites and skunk sprays. She has several books about amazingly strange and alien creatures found right here on our own planet.  

We hope you enjoy this interview with her! Be sure to pick up a copy of her latest book. We’ll also be giving away one copy to our readers, courtesy of Tundra books! 

You have a special love for the sea and all its creatures! Was there an event that inspired you to this passion? 

Great question! To me, the ocean represents some of the biggest and most beautiful mysteries this planet has to offer and has always felt like home. I don’t recall a single event that inspired my passion, but I have always felt such an affinity to ocean waves and the creatures that live beneath them. So many of these species seem so alien: creatures with flashing lights or translucent bodies exist and we know so little about them! From orcas to eels, I’m fascinated with all of it. 

If there’s one person from history that you could meet, who would it be and why? 

I don’t need to think long on this one: Beatrix Potter is my pick! She’s always been the epitome of polymath creator to me — not only was she a brilliant author and illustrator, but she was also a talented mycologist and conservationist. I think she would have incredible advice on staying true to yourself, while sharing what you love with others. (Plus, we both have bunny books, and that feels like an extremely special connection to me!) 

Are snot otters really gross? 

Snot otters sound gross, but they’re just doing what they can to survive! You’ve got to admit, their name alone is pretty spectacular. 

What is amazing about becoming a Zoologist, and what would you like to tell kids who are interested in this profession? 

It’s funny, people assume that there is a huge chasm between being a zoologist and being an author. But really, both are about asking and answering questions about the things that matter to us. Animals have stories too, and being a zoologist allows me to learn them and share them with others. The best part about being a zoologist is that you will never be bored — there is always some mind-blowing fact to learn and share!

If any readers are interested in being a zoologist, I’d recommend they read, explore, and learn about absolutely everything that interests them. Keeping a nature journal is a wonderful way to document your passions, and it’s so fun to draw and write about what you love. Don’t worry about making it fancy or pretty, just make it yours! 

Tell us about your book! 

Ocean Speaks is the true story of Marie Tharp, an oceanographic cartographer who mapped the ocean floor. Most scientists would do this by traveling on a ship, but Marie was told she wasn’t welcome on board because she was a woman. She could have given up on her dream of exploring the ocean because of this sexism, but instead she set her mind to the task and created a detailed map with their findings. And guess what: from her tiny laboratory office, Marie mapped the ocean’s most incredible secret. I won’t spoil it for readers, but let’s just say it doesn’t get any bigger than this!

I hope Ocean Speaks inspires all readers to do what they love in life, no matter what others say is possible. It’s been a joy to share Marie’s story with everyone, and I’m thrilled to see so many people getting inspired by her! Thank you so much for having me!

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