Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record-Setting Dive of the Bathysphere

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record-Setting Dive of the Bathysphere Book Poster Image
Exciting story of launching 1930 deep-sea diving tank.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lots of historical facts about the first dive of the Bathysphere, presented in a concise, kid-friendly, lively way. Many technical terms, including "winch," "cable," "hatch," "hull," and "watertight"; sophisticated vocabulary like "queasy" and "suffocate"; place names Bermuda and Galapagos Islands; names and illustrations of sea creatures, including eel larva, barbeled dragonfish, pteropods. 

Positive Messages

Follow your passion, follow your dreams. Don't give up when you encounter a setback. Working as a team can help get the job done. Scientific discoveries involve a lot of trial and error. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Otis Barton is a visionary who comes up with an innovative design for a diving tank and tries repeatedly to contact Will, a famous explorer, to show him the design. His persistence pays off. Will Beebe is curious and remains open-minded when contacted by Otis. Their dive has some scary, tense moments, but Will stays calm, even in the face of danger. The brave explorers descend to 803 feet below the surface of the ocean. No one before had gone lower than a few hundred feet. 

Violence & Scariness

Two scary moments during Will and Otis' first dive: During their descent, when they hit 300 feet, Otis cries, "We're leaking!" It's a tiny trickle through the hatch door, and Will orders that they keep descending. At 600 feet: "Without warning, sparks showered down from the searchlight cord above Will's head. If they hit the oxygen tanks, the explorers would be cooked! Otis grabbed at the cord, wiggled the searchlight ... the sparking stopped."


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record-Setting Dive of the Bathysphere, by Barb Rosenstock, is a nonfiction picture book that tells the story of an engineer and an explorer who teamed up to build and man a hollow metal diving tank in 1930. They descended further than anyone had before, and saw for the first time the dark realms and creatures of the deep ocean. Illustrator Katherine Roy (How to Be an Elephant, Neighborhood Sharks) brings the action-packed text to life, showing how exciting -- and risky -- scientific discovery can be. A big four-page foldout spread shows the dark underwater landscape the explorers saw. An author's note tells more history and includes archival photos of the men and the Bathysphere.  

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What's the story?

OTIS AND WILL DISCOVER THE DEEP: THE RECORD-SETTING DIVE OF THE BATHYSPHERE begins by showing Otis and Will as curious, scientifically minded boys: Otis putting together a wooden helmet and hose so he could explore underwater and studying machines in college to become an engineer; Will tracking woodland animals and growing up to become an explorer and director of research for the Bronx Zoo. They eventually meet and collaborate on designing a diving tank -- a hollow metal ball called the Bathysphere -- to explore the never-before-seen deep ocean. The story chronicles the preparation and launch of the tank, the tense first dive the two made, and the amazing sights they saw through the tank's round windows.

Is it any good?

This exciting, suspenseful account of the Bathysphere's first deep-ocean dive vividly conveys the thrill of scientific discovery and celebrates the passion and drive of the diving tank's two creators. Barb Rosenstock's text is gripping and informative, and Katherine Roy's you-are-there watercolor illustrations plunge readers into the story, pulling them along through the briny deep, as fish, eels, squid, jellyfish, and then-unnamed species swim by. She uses warm earth tones on land and cool blues and greens under the sea, while endpapers highlight and label selected fish and creatures. An author's note includes archival photographs of the two men and the Bathysphere. And a fascinating illustrator's note recounts the lengths to which Roy went, imagining and simulating what it was like for Otis and Will, two 6-foot-tall men, to be cramped in their tiny 4.5-foot-wide sphere. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about teamwork in Otis and Will Discover the Deep. How do the the engineer and the scientist work together as a team? What special skills does each one bring? How do others up on the boat help them when they're deep in the water? 

  • How does scientific exploration seem like an adventure? What worlds would you like to explore?  

  • Have you ever been on a submarine or seen fish in the ocean while snorkeling? Are you curious about seeing fish in their natural habitat? 

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