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Monday, August 6, 2018

Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record-Setting Dive of the Bathysphere. Written by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Katherine Roy. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2018. $24.99 ages 8 and up

"Will grew up and trekked the world
collecting exotic birds for the Bronx
Zoo. He climbed a smoking volcano,
fought armies of stinging ants, and
wrote bestselling books.

Nothing surprised him ...

until he dove into a shallow reef off
the Galapagos Islands. A brand-new

Ohh! My claustrophobic tendencies kicked in when I read this book the first time. I was intrigued enough to read it again, and to admire the two men who made history aboard the Bathysphere, a hollow metal ball that would take them to the ocean deeps.

They made that historical dive in 1930. Two men - renowned scientist William Beebe and the Bathysphere's designer, Otis Barton, descended more than 800 feet in an unproven submersible. Otis had always loved the ocean, and wanted to explore the deeps from a young age.

"He sketched a wood helmet
with three glass windows that a
carpenter made for a few dollars.
Otis hung two sandbags around
his neck and connected a hose.
A friend pushed air into the
helmet with a bike pump while
Otis bounced on the shallow
harbor bottom."

Yep, I would have tried that - not in any lifetime.

Will learned much about the natural world that surrounded him before his Galapagos Island dive. Following that, he had the same dream as Otis had - to explore the deep ocean waters. Otis read about Will's proposal for a machine that would descend into the deeps, and knew it would fail. So, he designed another. Will agreed to meet with him to discuss his plan. The two agreed to work together.

And here's where I stopped the first time:

"Inside, the 5,000-pound Bathysphere
measured four and a half feet, the size of
a tiny closet. Otis and Will each stood about
six feet tall. To get in, they wriggled like seals
over the scratchy hatch bolts, fell to the cold
steel bottom, and untangled their arms and legs."

I still get the heebie-jeebies. The rest of their story is so clearly documented that readers cannot help but be captivated by it. There were many things that could go wrong. Their descent - stopping every 100 feet all the way to 800 - was terrifying and is precisely described. Their smiles upon returning to the surface were radiant. They had done it!

Oh, my! Katherine Roy adds immediacy and beauty with her wondrous mixed media images. Realistic and detailed, she chronicles the preparation for the history-making plunge and the perils of the descent. The spectacular double gatefold that opens to show the ocean life panorama discovered when they shone a beam of light upon it will inspire cries of surprise and awe.

Author and illustrator notes, including archival photos, add further information and are sure to inspire interested readers to follow up and find out more. To that end, a list of sources is also provided. This is a dramatic, gripping account of one historical event in discovering the depths of our oceans.

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