Otis & Will Discover the Deep

The Record-Setting Dive of the Bathysphere

Written by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Katherine Roy

The suspenseful, little-known true story of two determined pioneers who made the first dive into the deep ocean.

On June 6, 1930, engineer Otis Barton and explorer Will Beebe dove into the ocean inside a hollow metal ball of their own invention called the Bathysphere. They knew dozens of things might go wrong. A tiny leak could shoot pressurized water straight through the men like bullets! A single spark could cause their oxygen tanks to explode! No one had ever dived lower than a few hundred feet…and come back. But Otis and Will were determined to become the first people to see what the deep ocean looks like.

Little, Brown, June 5, 2018. Age Level: 4-8 years

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  • Imagine climbing into a small, sealed metal ball connected to the outside world by only a phone headset and oxygen monitor, then being dropped into the ocean. With all the drama and wonder of the deep, this book plunges readers into the historic 1930 journey of engineer Otis Barton and scientist Will Beebe as they went where no one had gone before. The background of both men is covered, showing the motivations that forever changed the exploration of the oceans. The text brings in all the excitement and fear of the preparations and the dive itself. The illustrations, done in pencil, watercolor, gouache, and ink, go perfectly with the text in conveying the anticipation of the dive, the darkness as they go deeper, and the fear as some unexpected things happen. An extensive Author’s Note and Illustrator’s Note give more detail on Otis and Will and the challenges of illustrating their dive. This would be an excellent book for read aloud, sure to capture the attention of all students. Those who are especially interested in oceanography, diving, machine construction, or history will want to take a closer look at it as well. A perfect book for STEM education! Bibliography. ✭
    —School Library Connection (starred review)
  • For Otis Barton and William Beebe, the lure of the unexplored depths of the ocean was worth the risk of being crushed by water pressure at seven miles deep, and their separately held dreams converged when Otis, engineer and explorer wannabe, met Will, avid naturalist and Bronx Zoo curator. The two collaborated on the invention of the Bathysphere and made a series of dives together in the early 1930s. Rosenstock’s picture book account takes readers from her subjects’ solo careers, through the banging and clanging of invention, and onto their first dive in 1930 to an unprecedented depth of 803 feet near Bermuda. Followers would later dive far deeper, but pioneers Otis and Will had thrills aplenty paving the watery way in their cramped craft, where the electric line threatened to entangle with the lowering cable, sparks from the searchlight cord flickered around the combustible oxygen tanks, and “hatch bolts struggled to hold back the frigid water pushing to get inside.” This is a true adventure tale par excellence, tautly plotted, nail-bitingly told, and splendidly illuminated in the illustrations by Roy, from the detailed tinkering on deck, to the claustrophobic innards of the Bathysphere, to the exotic never- before-seen life forms that crossed the searchlight. Four pages of photoillustrated end matter offer more about Barton and Beebe, the research that Roy conducted for her illustrations, and a short list of resources. Endpapers, as explained in the illustrator’s note, feature marine life observed in the first and second four hundred feet of the dive. ✭
    —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
  • Rosenstock (Dorothea’s Eyes) provides a vivid account of a history-making dive of the submersible Bathysphere. In 1930, eminent scientist William Beebe and Bathysphere designer Otis Barton descend more than 800 feet in a herky-jerky plunge that Roy (How to Be an Elephant) depicts with stylized, action-packed watercolors. Text placed vertically alongside pictures of the swinging sphere (the repeated phrase “down, down into the deep” steps down the page) pulls the reader further into inky blue-black darkness: “400 feet. Stop. Colder. Breathe in. 500 feet. Stop. Darker. Breathe out.” Spreads alternate between scenes of the two explorers working inside the cramped Bathysphere and exterior views of the descent. The tale of this perilous expedition climaxes in a spectacular gatefold showing the small searchlight-lit vehicle hanging amid myriad whitish-gray sea creatures, in an expanse of dark water. Archival photographs, a source list, and lengthy author and illustrator notes conclude this tribute to the power of curiosity, imagination, and ambition. Ages 4–8. ✭
    —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  • This is a true science adventure story of two men, Otis Barton and Will Beebe, who explored the depths of the ocean down to 800 feet in a self-designed round metal diving tank, “a hollow metal ball” called the bathysphere. Their goal was to answer the question: “What did the deep ocean look like?” Rosenstock’s beautifully crafted prose captures the tension and the awe of the experience. (“Shadowy shapes swam past the window. Mysterious lights twinkled in the distance.”) The text is expertly complemented by illustrations that detail what is happening, and capture the emotion and fascination of the men. As the bathysphere descends, readers see what is happening both inside and outside the craft. Inside, the two men do various tasks, while outside the vessel descends farther and farther into the darkening waters. A magnificent four-page foldout first shows Beebe and Barton peering out at a depth of 800 feet. When the fold is opened, readers witness the answer to their pressing question. Finally, the intriguing back matter includes an author’s note, an illustrator’s note, and a note from a former assistant of Will Beebe, as well as a number of interesting photographs. VERDICT An outstanding work of nonfiction for school and public libraries. ✭
    —School Library Journal (starred review)
  • In her gripping account of Otis Barton and Will Beebe’s historic 1930 journey into the deep ocean, Rosenstock structures the text so that we first meet Otis and Will individually, as boys fascinated by ocean life and nature. Each was curious about what the deep ocean looked like, and each “wanted to be the first to find out.” As adults, they meet, shake hands, partner up, and with a team of scientists build the Bathysphere, a five-thousand-pound diving tank. As they climb inside for the first time, illustrator Roy’s tight perspective is such that it’s as if we’re a third explorer in the cramped tank—and it’s thrilling. Rosenstock’s masterful pacing as the tank is submerged leaves us nearly breathless as we descend to eight hundred feet by increments of a hundred. This leads us to the book’s biggest treat, an arresting wordless gatefold featuring the Bathysphere dwarfed in the deep by darkness and a wide array of sea creatures, followed at the page-turn by five simple, yet goosebump-inducing words: “Otis and Will knew first.” Roy’s fluid watercolors and dramatic perspectives capture the heart-pounding emotion of the scientists’ dangerous journey. It’s remarkable how much expression she gets out of a few quick, sketchy lines on both Barton’s and Beebe’s faces. A list of sources and closing notes from the author, the illustrator, and a former personal assistant to Beebe round out this magnificent adventure. ✭
    —The Horn Book (starred review)

Blog Posts About Otis & Will!

A Deep Conversation with Illustrator and Author Katherine Roy

The following interview with Barb Rosenstock was originally published here at Picture Book Builders. Enjoy! A few weeks back, I was fortunate to interview Katherine Roy, author and illustrator of the Sibert Honor Book Neighborhood Sharks and her title from this past spring, How To Be
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Happy Book Birthday, Otis and Will!

The little-known true story of the first deep dive into the ocean . . . Eighty-eight years ago today on June 6, 1930, engineer Otis Barton and explorer William Beebe dove into the ocean inside a hollow metal ball called the Bathysphere. They knew dozens of things might go wrong. A tin
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Unboxing the Book with Barb Rosenstock

Most people outside of picture book publishing don’t that authors and illustrators almost never directly communicate throughout the entire book-making process—any and all discussions usually get filtered through a book’s editor. So as you can imagine Barb Rosenstock and I were VERY ex
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On My Desk Now: Otis & Will

When I imagine a book that I didn’t write or illustrate, I usually think of the book’s front cover. But when I imagine one of my books, what usually comes to mind instead are my piles of notes and sketches, or a particular moment during my field research, or perhaps even one of the ch
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