Nonfiction Monday: Otis and Will Discover the Deep by Barb Rosenstock
Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record-Setting Dive of the Bathysphere
By Barb Rosenstock
Illustrated by Katherine Roy
It guess it’s something we’re born with: an affinity for discovery. We love firsts. First human on the moon. First ever 900. With Otis and Will Discover the Deep, Barb Rosenstock and Katherine Roy bring us a double numero uno: the first ever picture book about the first deep ocean dive. With a inviting mix of science and story, it’s a book worth discovering.
Otis Barton was an engineer interested in the sea. Will Beebe was an explorer with the same interest. Their paths would eventually cross over the design of a diving tank that would allow humans to explore the deep ocean. They formed a partnership and in 1930, they made their first voyage in the tiny Bathysphere. The plunge wasn’t without incident – think leaks and electrical problems – but the pair emerged from the vessel the first humans to see deep-ocean life.
The narrative tightrope in nonfiction can be tricky to walk. Barb Rosenstock does well, keeping the text straightforward and relatively spare, considering all the details that warrant mention in a true story such as this. Repetition is used nicely, using the refrain of “down, down into the deep” as a unifying element, and allowing space for the illustrations to speak loudly at key moments in the story, like the double gatefold that opens to show the divers’ climactic view of deep-ocean life.
Katherine Roy’s artwork – created with pencil, watercolor, gouache, and ink – is precise but not stuffy, with loose pencil work and watercolor bleeds providing a lively quality. Roy clearly takes her work seriously, and it shows in the finished product, which nails the science as well as the mood of this story of underwater explorers.
I love when nonfiction can work as well in a story time setting as with an individual reader. Otis and Will is that kind of book. A remarkable first that young readers will want to explore.
Review copy from the publisher.
Book chat with the illustrator: Katherine Roy:
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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