Into the Deep book cover image

Into the Deep
The Life of Naturalist and Explorer William Beebe

  • 895

Written and Illustrated by: David Sheldon

“To be a naturalist is better than to be a king.”
William Beebe’s journal, December 31, 1893

Creeping silently through the forest day after day, young William Beebe became an expert tracker, studying birds, fish, insects, and mammals. By the time he was a young man, he was one of the most knowledgeable naturalists in the country, traveling to Mexico, South America, and Southeast Asia in search of rare species of birds and other animals. Yet it was not until his adventure to the Galápagos Islands, where Charles Darwin made his famous observations, that William became absorbed in the study of marine life, leading him to create a deep-sea diving vessel called the Bathysphere.

David Sheldon uses his artistic magic to chart the life of this famous naturalist, from his childhood studying animals in New Jersey through his later years studying birds at the research station he started in Trinidad.

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

David Sheldon, author/illustrator

David Sheldon is the author/illustrator of Barnum Brown: Dinosaur Hunter (Walker). He has also illustrated several children’s books including Bugs! (Zonderkidz). David lives near Asheville, North Carolina.

Read more about David.

Awards & Honors:

  • An NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12
  • CCBC Choices
  • Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year

Editorial Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews

Lifelong naturalist William Beebe is most famous for his record-breaking deep-sea dive. In 1934, he and partner Otis Barton descended 3,028 feet into the unexplored depths of the ocean in a bathysphere, invented for the purpose. This colorful introduction to Beebe's life for younger readers opens with his parents' encouragement of his interests in the natural world and his early work as a curator and collector of birds before he developed the idea of observing animals in their native habitat and began to focus on undersea life. Sheldon's lush double-page paintings, in acrylic, gouache and India ink, show young Will surrounded by animals, alive and stuffed, and the older man at work in a variety of settings. They offer some gentle humor--as when explorer Beebe's hat blows off, revealing his balding head--and show Beebe aging gracefully. Although the dive is the focal point of the story, the author tracks this early ecologist's entire career. Backmatter includes further information, quotations from Beebe's writings, and a glossary and bibliography. A fine offering for would-be explorers.


Sheldon presents Beebe--whose wide-ranging interest in the natural world led him from curatorial duties at the New York Zoological Park (aka the Bronx Zoo), to record-breaking deep dives in the armored bathysphere, and to becoming later in life a strong proponent for conservation--as a dedicated scientist who was also a popular hero during the Great Depression, when many were in search of heroes. Why is Beebe still worth knowing? Because, the author argues, his books are still read (occasionally), he exerted a strong and continuing influence on the environmental movement, and as depicted in staid but carefully detailed acrylics, he explored several still-mysterious and exotic reaches of our world. The author closes his short profile with a more detailed recap, a page of memorable quotes ("To be a naturalist is better than to be a king."), and a short resource list.

NSTA Recommends

David Sheldon brings the excitement of being a naturalist and explorer to life for readers as he portrays the highlights from the life and times of explorer William Beebe. This large and beautifully illustrated book is ideal for sharing aloud or for a center in which students can explore further.

This story details the life of this explorer and naturalist--from his childhood years when he observed animals in New Jersey and became interested in birds, to his young adult years when he served as the assistant curator of birds at the New York Zoological Park, to his years of global travel when he continued to observe and learn about animals. The later half of the story delves into Beebe's fascination with the underwater animals of the oceans and seas. His interest in this area allowed him to team up with Otis Barton, who designed the bathysphere, which was tested by the pair over several attempts. Eventually Beebe and Barton, inside of the bathysphere, went deeper than anyone had been before (-3,208 feet, where they encountered deep-ocean creatures for the first time ever in their natural setting).

Among other notable features of this book are the illustrations that bring the text to life. Colorful, double-page drawings will help readers feel like they are part of the experiences in which Beebe was engaged. Also included are endnotes on the bathysphere, quotes Beebe made during his explorations, a glossary, and a list of additional resources. This book provides a realistic look into the explorations made by a single man and will help students see Science in the Human Perspective, as suggested in the National Science Education Standards.

School Library Journal

Considered the father of ecology and a member of the first crew to travel deep into the sea in a Bathysphere, Beebe was, at the time of his live radio broadcast from beneath the sea in 1932, a household name. Focusing on his childhood activities, his success as a very young man, and his best-known achievements, Sheldon keeps the book brief and fast moving. India Ink gives a period feel to the large, bright illustrations. Smiling at an opossum in a nearby branch or watching with trepidation as a giant, unknown sea creature passes by the window of his Bathysphere, Beebe is always shown in the thick of exploration of the natural world. Helpful end matter includes an author's note with a cutaway view of the Bathysphere and a page of intriguing quotes from Beebe. A fine book for any aspiring scientist, this is a natural selection for those who have enjoyed Kathryn Lasky's One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin (Candlewick, 2009), Rosalyn Schanzer's What Darwin Saw: The Journey That Changed the World (National Geographic, 2008), and Alice B. McGinty's Darwin (Houghton, 2009).


Download the Cover


ISBN: 978-1-58089-342-8

E-book PDF
ISBN: 978-1-60734-215-1
For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

Ages: 5-8
Page count: 48
8 1/2 x 11

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