This second book in Schiffer’s Unhinged History series brings together William Beebe and Otis Barton, who came together to create the bathysphere, an invention that sent the two underwater explorers more than half a mile underwater in 1930. The two were able to sees, close-up, underwater sea life that redefined deep-sea exploration. The story, written in slant rhyming, tells the story of the two very different personalities, who clashed throughout the invention process and, in 1934, split up for good after their historic dive. The story mentions the sphere’s return to life in 1994, when a renovation to the New York Aquarium gave the sphere a facelift, and where it proudly stands today. Back matter includes drawings of some of the sea life discovered during the deep sea dives, Bathysphere schematics, a timeline of human diving, and a profile on explorer Gloria Hollister, who worked with Beebe and Barton and who made her own deep sea dive in 1934.
Cartoon illustrations and a rhyme scheme outside of the norm make this an interesting choice for intermediate and middle grade readers who have an interest in science and underwater exploration. I like the idea of bringing together people who may not always have the most harmonious relationship, but who work together to affect great change: it’s a good way to show kids that you may not always get along, but there’s a value in putting aside differences to work together. A note on slant rhyming (also called “lazy rhyme”) will help readers ease into reading the story, which may feel off at first.