Wiesner, David. 2006. FLOTSAM. New York, NY: Clarion Books. ISBN 9780618194575
2. Plot Summary:
Flotsam, meaning something that floats, is the title of this beautiful picture book by David Wiesner. In this wordless book, a boy finds a camera while at the beach. He gets the pictures developed and discovers the adventure filled journey the camera has witnessed.
3. Critical Analysis:
David Wiesner uses only his illustrations to convey the powerful message of discovery through a child’s eyes in his Caldecott Award winning wordless book. His use of watercolors is appropriate to catch the colors and feel of nature in this book’s beach and ocean setting. His pictures vary from filling the entire page to being enclosed by lines to create a photograph image. Throughout the pages, the image of the boy’s eye is proportionally larger at times to emphasize various images so the reader gets the feel for what the boy is seeing. The boy’s eye is like the camera’s eye. Wiesner’s realistic representations of people and nature give validity to the idea that this story could possibly happen, which adds a magic of “what if…” The few words found in the illustrations give a humorous and literary nod for those paying attention. The camera that washes ashore is by Melville, who wrote the great ocean adventure, Moby Dick. In one picture, a family of octopus is listening to a story read aloud while the lamps in their ‘home’ are lit by what might be lantern fish. The octopuses also seem to have their own pets in a fishbowl. The theme of discovery and ‘things are not what they seem’ can be found throughout the illustrations with the starfish having islands on their backs and seahorses capturing invading aliens. When the boy discovers that the photos in the camera tell a story that goes back through many years by looking more closely at the images, he decides to become part of that chain of history. He takes his picture and adds his mark to the adventuresome camera and returns it to the sea for someone else to discover. The message of giving back and being a part of nature without harming or destroying it is a powerful one for students to discover. Wiesner does an excellent job of ‘showing, not telling’.
4. Review Excerpts:
Caldecott Medal Award Winner 2007
Starred in SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL: “This wordless book's vivid watercolor paintings have a crisp realism that anchors the elements of fantasy.”
Starred in KIRKUS REVIEWS: “In Wiesner's much-honored style, the paintings are cinematic, coolly restrained and deliberate, beguiling in their sibylline images and limned with symbolic allusions. An invitation not to be resisted.”
*Related Books: Other wordless books like:
Wiesner, David. TUESDAY. ISBN 9780395551134
Ludy, Mark. THE FLOWER MAN. ISBN 9780966427646
*Have students write a story to go along with one of the pictures in the book.
*Students can investigate and research cameras and how they work.
*Use a microscope to look at images at various magnification levels (10x, 25x, etc) and discover the differences.
*Have students create their own wordless books.