Otis and Will Discover the Deep – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Barb Rosenstock is my nonfiction picture book author idol for several reasons:

  1. She always makes me care about the story/person/event.
  2. She uses a repetitive and lyrical line that pulses throughout the story. (In this case, she uses two.)
  3. She’s a meticulous researcher.
  4. She includes fascinating back matter. 

In OTIS AND WILL DISCOVER THE DEEP, we meet the main characters as children.

“Otis Barton discovered the ocean early.”

When he dives into the waves, he watches the sand sharks scatter

“…down, down into the deep.”

Otis comes up with ingenious ways to explore this underwater world.

Next, we meet Will, a boy initially fascinated by the creatures of terra firma, but a common thread ties the boys together:

“Will Beebe discovered the ocean later.”

The next spread shows Will’s explorations, ending with the ocean. 

Will is awestruck by the new world that lies

“down, down into the deep.”

They are destined to meet. Otis studies machines in college and reads about Will’s plan to build a diving tank, otherwise known as a bathysphere. He finds all kinds of problems with the design and presents his own plans to Will. They decide to dive

“down, down into the deep.”


Otis directs the building of the bathysphere. Will studies sea creatures. They venture to Bermuda where they will make their record-breaking dive. We see these two tall men squeeze into a 4 1/2 foot  diameter sphere. We hear their nervous thoughts. Then as they descend, the sphere shudders at each 100-foot mark. The men shudder. Will tells Otis to breathe. This reminds the reader to breathe, too.

Otis fans the air to disperse chemicals, and checks air temperature. Will gazes out the porthole and takes notes. At 300 feet a hatch door begins to leak and water wets the seat of Otis’s pants. They decided to take a chance and continue to descend to 400 feet.

“Stop. Colder. Breath in. 500 feet. Stop. Darker. Breathe out.

At 600 feet sparks fly from an electrical cord. It could ignite their oxygen! Will grabs the cord, gives it a wiggle, and the sparks stop.

Breath in. Breathe out.”

They descend to 700 feet. It’s difficult to read or take notes, and they can’t see colors, only black and white. The hatch bolts

“creak.” “skreak.” “creak.”

“Breathe in. Breathe out.”

They descend to 800 feet.

“…down, down into the deep.”

At 800 feet, the question is posed:

“What did the deep ocean look like?”

In a masterful climax, two gatefolds open like french doors to display a vast array of ghostly sea life surrounding the tiny bathysphere.

In the last two spreads of the story, the sphere rises, and Will and Otis emerge, grinning. They have finally seen the deep, deep ocean, and it was mysterious, glorious, and thrilling.

The book ends with two full spreads of back matter, the author’s note with more detailed information about the two men, and a note from  Constance Carter, a former head of science reference at the Library of Congress. She had been a field research assistant for Will Beebe.

In the illustrator’s note, Katherine Roy explains her research and artistic process for creating the images for the book, including building a cardboard mock-up of the inside of the bathysphere so she (and her husband) could get a feel for what it was like to sit inside such a cramped space. She wore a cardboard diving helmet, talked into a banana (substitute for the bathysphere phone), peered through tent portholes, and used flashlights to imagine what could be seen from the bathysphere portholes in the dark. The artwork in pencil, watercolor, gouache, and ink is luminous. The front and back end papers add even more information by providing examples of sea creatures that Will and Otis may have seen. The front shows creatures that can be found to a depth of 300 feet, and the back shows creatures that live in the 400 to 800 foot depths.

It’s a fabulous book that may inspire young explorers to dream big and take risks. It could lead them down, down deep or up, up high—or anywhere in between.

TITLE: Otis and Will Discover the Deep

Author: Barb Rosenstock

Illustrator: Katherine Roy

Publisher: Little Brown, 2018


For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.


16 thoughts on “Otis and Will Discover the Deep – Perfect Picture Book Friday

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Yes! I’ll also be reviewing Michelle Cusolito’s “Flying Deep” soon. It’s about the deep see submersible, Alvin, the craft that helped explore the Titanic. I’ll bet he’d love that book, too!

  1. viviankirkfield says:

    Oh my gosh…Barb Rosenstock is one of my pb heroes. I almost chose the Bathysphere as a topic to write about last year…fabulous gem of a story. Thanks for sharing this, Jilanne.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Vivian! It is a great story, and I’m glad you didn’t pursue it last year while this one was in the production phase. It can be so disheartening to see a NF book come out on a topic that you’ve already started working on, or worse, just finished!

  2. insanelypredictable says:

    I don’t have kids and am hardly ever around them, but I used to work in youth services in a public library, and am always on the lookout for gems like this! I grew up next to the ocean and love creatures of the deep– reading your review makes me want to buy this book for myself!

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