Searching through the wreckage of old and used books I found myself a surprise called Flotsam. I went to the cashier, gave the lady my money, and left with pride. I went home opened this Caldecott Winner and discovered I did get a treasure. My copy may be second-hand but it was signed.
The adventure does not end as I meet Wiesner’s young blonde boy protagonist in Flotsam. Weisner’s book is a wonder in so many levels I can dance around (hmm…not a really good look on me, but hey that’s how I felt). This wordless picture book is a WONDER, the dictionary defines it as cause of astonishment or surprise, a feeling aroused by something extraordinary, and the feel of curiosity or doubt. Yup, WONDER captures Flotsam to a T.
It begins, like any wonderful day, boring— day in the beach, making sand castles and lazing around. Then something unexpected happens, a huge wave gets you and you know…yup every child knows something wonderful is just about to happen. Our young boy finds himself a strange looking camera perfectly equipped with film. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but curiosity fuels a child. Like our protagonist, we patiently wait as the pictures are being developed and find ourselves itching with equal curiosity as the protagonist as we discover the fantastic underwater world— Think Shark’s Tale or Finding Nemo meets aliens. During these moments, I encourage readers to truly look into the details of the pictures. You might even want to zoom in and look at the other wonders you could miss if you simply gloss over the pictures. The multiple-layered wonder is in the story itself, the discovery of the underworld and the interconnectedness of children through time.
Flotsam has an element of picture within a picture. The pictures within a picture are a collection of children from present day to the sepia days. The adventure with the camera is like a long chain letter connecting children through a wonderful secret of underwater life.
How it happens is revealed to us in the succeeding pages where the blonde boy’s adventure ends, a little curly hair boy’s begins.
Flotsam is a book rich in imagination. Wiesner’s artwrok is rich and engaging that the reader is swept into it. While an older audience would skim through the pages, Flotsam draws you in and makes you want to look at the details, suspends your belief and be taken by the wonder. A child’s eyes are always filled with wonder and occasionally some adults can use some wonder in their lives.
David Wiesner, according to the books jacketflap has received the Caldecott Medal twice for Tuesday and Three Pigs and two Caldecott Honor for Sector 7 and Free Fall. He is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, he lives near Philadelphia with his wife, Kim Khang and their children Kevin and Jamie.
Flotsam By David Wiesner, Clarion Books, New York