Top 100 Picture Books #77: Flotsam by David Wiesner
Most of David Wiesner’s wordless picture books are all wonderful, it is hard to pick one, but I don’t want to list them all and take up spots. This one is more intricate, and a good one to ask kids to write out their version of the story. – Dudee Chiang
There is no finer example of unbridled imagination than Wiesner’s 2006 wordless story about a boy who finds amazing things inside old camera washed up on a beach. As the storyline unfolds, the reader discovers that undersea life may be much more sophisticated (and whimsical) than previously thought. – Travis Jonker
An amazing book that exemplifies the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” A great book for sharing with kids. – Michael Oakleaf
Hmmm. What to make of Wiesner. Last time this book clocked in at an impressive #58. Now we sink down to #77. Time has passed and memories fog. Will it continue to slip over the years or will it remain here in the brains of adults and children everywhere? Hard to predict.
At any rate, at long last David Wiesner makes an appearance on today’s list. The three time Caldecott Award winner is going to have to stop making books someday if he doesn’t want to cause a revolt amongst all the other author/illustrators out there. Of course, that would mean not getting any more Wiesner books and we cannot have that, can we?
The description from my review reads: “A scientifically minded young man is closely examining the various critters and crabs he finds washed up along the beach shore when he’s suddenly doused in a wave. When he emerges he’s sitting on the sand with an old-fashioned camera beside him. On its front are the words, ‘Melville underwater camera’. Intrigued, the boy plucks out the film and takes it to a one hour photo store. The pictures he gets back, however, are nothing a person could imagine. Mechanical fish swimming with real ones, hot-air pufferfish, entire civilizations living on the backs of gigantic starfish… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The last photo, however, is the most interesting of them all. In it, a girl holds a picture of a boy holding a picture of a boy, holding a picture of a girl, and so on. Our boy gets out his magnifying glass and sees even more pictures of kids holding pictures of kids. And when he gets out his microscope he can see all the way back to the very first picture in the batch ever taken. When last we see of our hero he has taken a picture of himself holding the last photo with the Melville camera. Then he tosses it into the sea, where we see it acting out a couple of adventures until the last picture in the book; A girl on a tropical beach reaches for the camera, half-buried in the sand.”
I have always remembered and been fond of the book trailer that was constructed for Flotsam. Here you can see it. Full discloser, my husband is an acquaintance of the creator (now on staff of that new Tim Allen TV show), being a film student and all. It’s funny but this was one of the first major picture book trailers I ever saw. It’s an interesting experiment in the long-term use of book trailers. With more than 14,000 views, maybe there’s something to them after all . . .
Aw, what the hey. I’m in a video mood. Here then is Mr. Wiesner talking about winning the Caldecott for this book:
School Library Journal’s starred review said of it, “Shifting perspectives, from close-ups to landscape views, and a layout incorporating broad spreads and boxed sequences, add drama and motion to the storytelling and echo the photographic theme. Filled with inventive details and delightful twists, each snapshot is a tale waiting to be told.”
Booklist added, “Like Chris Van Allsburg’s books and Wiesner’s previous works, this visual wonder invites us to rethink how and what we see, out in the world and in our mind’s eye.”
Kirkus put in, “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.”
And Publishers Weekly said, “New details swim into focus with every rereading of this immensely satisfying excursion.”
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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