Flotsam is a picture book told entirely in illustrations. Some pictures are double-page spreads and some pages are a series of pictures similar to a graphic novel. The artwork is astonishing. The children and creatures in the story are detailed, expressive, and active. The under water scenes are especially vivid and fascinating.
The story, told through pictures is clever and intriguing. On the first page we see a large eye studying a tiny sea creature. On the next page, perspective pulls away and we see that it is a boy examining life at the seashore with a magnifying glass. The inquisitiveness of the child is portrayed by nearby objects, snorkel gear, a microscope, a bucket of found objects, a treasure box, shovels, a net, and binoculars. This is a boy who observes closely.
Soon after he discovers a crab on the beach and gently touches its shell. The waves roll in, knocking him over, and bringing in an antique underwater camera. Being an honest and conscientious boy, he first tries to find out who owns the camera, but no one claims it. He takes the film to be developed at a one hour photo. The images of him waiting restlessly outside are endearing.
The shocked look of the boy when he sees the first picture, which the artist presents on a bright two-page spread, pulls us into the story even further. It is a school of brilliantly colored red, pink, and orange fish, one a clockwork windup construction! As the boy examines the pictures, we are treated to a fantastical world where octopus use living room furniture, puffer fish are used as hot air balloons, turtles have seashell villages on their backs, giant starfish tower over sperm whales, and tiny aliens ride fish. The story continues, holding our interest to the very last page.
This book is a delightful exploration of imagination. What a wonderful tool for discussion and creative writing/drawing with children. It is easy to see why this book one the Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award from the New York Times. David Wiesner has received the Caldecott Metal twice and two Caldecott Honors. I would never hesitate to buy anything with his name on it.