Book Review: Flotsam

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Author & Illustrator: David Wiesner

Age level: 4-8 years

Publishers: Clarion Books

ISBN: 9780618194575

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Open the first page and you see a startled crab and an out of focus human eye. You know Flotsam is no ordinary book! This wordless picture book takes you and your child to an unknown world hiding in the ocean.

A wave washes over a curious young boy at the beach and leaves behind an ancient looking camera with barnacles stuck to it and the words Melville Underwater Camera on the front. The boy finds a film role inside the camera which he then develops and prints.

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As he sits on the beach and looks through the pictures the boy’s eyes pop open in shock. Could this be true? A mechanical wind up fish swimming with a school of fish, an underwater domestic scene with the octopus family lounging on some furniture, an island that is really a starfish…picture after picture adds to the mystery. Is there more to the underwater world than what we know?

The last picture is the most puzzling. A girl holds a picture of a boy holding a picture of a girl who is holding a picture of a…there are several pictures within that picture. This enchanted camera has been through the hands of so many children from so many places, over so many years.

The boy decides that he must continue the chain. He takes a portrait picture holding the picture of the girl when he is hit by another wave. Quite apt really! When the boy throws the camera back into the sea, it starts afresh on a journey around the world, taking pictures of new wonders. When the camera washes up on the shore next, we see a curious young girl reaching for it.

The sequences of events look so natural. The fact that there are no words allow the children to make their own meaning. There is much attention to detail and there is irony too. The girl behind the counter completely misses the mystery in the photographs that she has handled. On the other hand the boy’s curiosity gives him an insight into this amazing world!

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