Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Photo courtesy Amazon.

Author/Illustrator: DAVID WIESNER
Recommended Age group: 2 and up. You are limited only by your imagination!
Caldecott Award: 2007

I have been reading children’s books for the past three years. The main things I consider while picking out a book are message and language development. For people like me, books like Flotsam are eye openers. This is a wordless picture book and I REALLY noticed the pictures, the effort the author has put in to the pictures in order to convey the message and was simply astounded. The medium Wiesner uses is watercolor. Every seashell is meticulously drawn. The use of lines and the play of light are so wonderful that one can almost feel its texture. The colors are pleasing to young children making the children focus on the story without overly stimulating them. The placement of pictures also plays a major role in story telling in this wordless storybook.

Wiesner’s message through his books - magical things are happening all around us, anything can happen anywhere, do not limit your imagination/dreams and never loose hope on your dreams becoming true(Digression: Check out Wiesner’s 1992 Caldecott Medal book TUESDAY. It talks about the dream of frogs coming true. Any one, even frogs can dream and you never know it might just come true! Keep dreaming, it keeps you alive!).

Flotsam is a story in which a boy finds an underwater camera in a beach, washed ashore by the waves. The boy is not able to find the owners of the camera and decides to develop the pictures from the film in the camera. When he looks at the developed pictures, a whole new world is thrown wide open to him. From now on it is a fantasy journey not only for the boy but also to the readers. The older readers who know about the functioning of a ‘real world’ stare open eyed at the mechanical fishes swimming along side the real ones, a family of octopus sitting on a couch reading a book, puffed up puffer fish acting like a hot air balloon, gigantic sea turtles with a whole city on their shell and star fishes of colossal size – that make grey whales look tiny, housing an entire island on them. That’s not where the surprise ends, one has to read the book to find out what the final surprise!

It was so surprising how different the adult mind works when compared to a child’s mind. I am trying to make some sense of the pictures, and this is exactly how my brain went:

A key wound mechanical fish?!

What do I say if the children ask me to explain this?

May be I can say that this is a marine experiment and the biologists are observing patterns about this school of fish.

Whaaaat? A family of octopus sitting on a couch and reading books?

Aahhha! I see a moving container capsized behind the octopus and the couch must have fallen out of the container. The octopus just happened to sit on it.

What now? Puffer fish flying??? Okay I give up. There is no way in hell I can explain this….

And guess what questions I had to answer? ‘What is the boy’s name?’, ‘Ammaaaa, hermit crab eyes popping out of his head? That’s so silly[they put their index fingers on their fore heads and start doing a hermit crab routine. They even came with a voice for the hermit crab]’, ‘The boy has two shovels, one blue and one red. Can I have two shovels?’, ‘Can we put fish on our couch?’. They just surrendered to the story line and digested everything! Gosh, why did I even worry about flying fish and floating aliens? The open mindedness, amazes me.

There was a lot of language involved. By the time we finished reading this book, the boy had a name, ‘Geeg’ (please don’t ask me why, I did not name him). When he looks through a ring, his eyes become bigger(Errr.. in the book the boy is looking at a crab through a magnifying glass and Wiesner has painted it from the perspective of some one observing the boy. So you can see normal right eye and part of left eye through the magnifying lens). He is playing on the beach and is not being responsible, always listen to your mommy and daddy Geeg (I thought I was looking at myself and listening to myself)…and so Flotsam from a 2 year old and a 3.5 year old’s perspective goes on…..

Hahaha, I am not revealing the final knot. Go get a copy of Flotsam and discover it yourself. Hey, you, you and you get off the couch and get the book. Next post surprise quiz on Flotsam.

1 comment:

Praba Ram said...


One amazing book. Finally got to see it with my 6 yr old today. Ya, seeing is believing...How wonderfully imagined!

Couldn't get myself to fully absorb all the pictures with my 2 yr old sort of trying to grab it from me. Therefore, I am not sure I am ready for the quiz, yet. (nice excuse hahn?) I for sutr missed some details you mentioned - like the whale looking smaller than the other fish etc.. I loved the way you left the ending undisclosed!

Great pick! Loved the way your children responded to the book - open-minded is a perfect way to put it..I think the neatest part of our reviews here is capturing those special reading memories with our children. Thanks for sharing!

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