Lynn: Barb Rosenstock and Katherine Roy’s new picture book, Otis and Will Discover the Deep: the Record-Setting Dive of the Bathysphere (2018), is the fascinating story of how the groundbreaking submarine came to be. It is also a celebration of curiosity, persistence, and the unexpected places those qualities can lead.

Otis Barton and William Beebe, although twenty years apart in age, were cut from the same cloth. Both were intensely curious, fascinated by the ocean, and yearned to explore its depths. Otis, a dedicated tinkerer turned engineer, read about famous explorer William Beebe’s plan to develop a deep ocean-diving tank and rushed into action. He tried to contact Beebe, who ignored his letters. But Otis’s persistence paid off: the two teamed up, a partnership that culminated in the famous Bathysphere. They made their first dive on June 6, 1930.

Katherine Roy’s skillful illustrations intensify Rosenstock’s nail-biting account of this hazardous voyage, contrasting the tiny, squashed conditions of the Bathysphere’s interior with the vastness of the ocean around it. The dive was an extraordinary achievement, and this account allows young readers to share in the moment while understanding its dangers.

Cindy: I’m a fan of the work of both of these creative women, so reading this collaboration was a sheer delight. I’m a certified scuba diver (with very limited open-water diving experience), and I still get nervous at 25 feet, worrying I’ll do something wrong or have my equipment fail. Reading Rosenstock’s suspenseful text while viewing the darkening descent to 800 feet through Roy’s artwork had me holding my breath. Thank goodness for Will’s repeated commands to Otis to “Breathe in. . . breathe out.” When water seeped or sparks flew inside that tiny capsule, I really needed those reminders!

Young readers will be equally mesmerized by this exciting story, and I was also thrilled by the author’s and illustrator’s notes, which include photos from the real adventure, along with extra information about the men and the bathysphere. Roy’s personal flourishes are especially engaging, like the description of her husband holding a banana “telephone” or her recreation of the bathysphere’s confines shown in a photo of Roy within her toddler’s play tent—all exercises that helped her with her illustrations. There’s also a note from Connie Carter, now the Head of Science Reference Section at the Library of Congress, who once served as Beebe’s assistant. Don’t miss her story about his focus on inspiring children.

This week, I started another round of seventh-grade nonfiction picture book research and video projects. I overheard a girl exclaim, “I’ve missed picture books!” Otis and Will Discover the Deep is one I will be adding to this project. I couldn’t rave here about Roy’s first book, Neighborhood Sharks (2014), when it published because I was serving on the 2015 Sibert Award Committee. (It ended up being one of our Sibert Honors.) Hear me now from my own banana microphone: I love her work!



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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