Friday, September 16, 2011

Module 3: Flotsam

Picture c/o Scarborough Library
David Weisner's wordless book Flotsam won the 2007 Caldecott award, and when I was perusing a bunch of other winners, Flotsam was the one that jumped out at me (well, not literally perhaps...).


Flotsam contains more than one story arc.  A boy on the beach finds a washed-up old camera, and gets the pictures developed.  In the photos, he finds pictures of a magical underwater kingdom full of fish with gears (steampunk fish?!), octopi, and cities built on the backs of swimming turtles.

But, at the very end of the roll of film, the boy finds another picture, but this time it's not a fish; this time it's a girl.  She holds a photo which is a photo of a photo of a photo of a photo...a meta-montage, as it were.  The boy sees that the camera has been passed around from one person to the next, it's gone from shore to shore, and as time has passed, people who had the camera took a photo holding the last photo on the roll, creating another layer of meta to the project.  The boy takes a photo of him with the photo, and throws the camera back into the sea for someone else to eventually find.  The meta continues!


I loved this book.  Its wordless quality enables the reader to fill in the blanks which I think would be particularly fun for the magical underwater kingdom.  Older readers will appreciate the meta-angle of the photo story, while younger readers will enjoy the fantastical pictures of the sea below the surface.  The boy's decision to participate in the project could spur young readers to do likewise by creating their own projects that pass from one to another (a notebook passed from friend to friend, a camera like in the book -- I remember doing such projects with friends as a kid, so I connected to this book on that level).  As an adult, I still enjoy this book immensely, and there are certainly little tidbits here and there for more art-aware individuals to see (note The Great Wave in the header image).  The book has magical elements and fantastic-but-plausible-or-at-least-imaginably-plausible aspects.


"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" (Kirkus Reviews).

"Meticulous watercolors combine with Wiesner’s bountiful imagination to make this wordless
fantasy involving and convincing" (Horn Book Magazine, pg. 11).


Weisner was interviewed by Reading Today: “'It’s been really wonderful to hear the different ways the books get used in schools,' he says. He finds that they are used a lot by ESL teachers and for creative writing. He says he recently received a package from a school that had written and produced a play based on Sector 7" (Reading Today, pg. 30).  Flotsam would indeed be an excellent candidate for a book for children to use for a creative writing prompt.  As mentioned above, it could also be included in collections on photography for children, and could be used for a summer program group project theme, if a library is small and can work with individual groups of children (or if the library is large and wants to simply promote it as a jumping-off point for children and their own summer ideas and projects).  I know if I saw this book in a library as a kid, my first act upon reading it would be to grab a camera and do some meta-photography with friends of my own!


BEST BOOKS OF 2006 Fanfare. (2007). Horn Book Magazine, 83(1), 11-16. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

ELITE COMPANY. (2007). Reading Today, 24(5), 30. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

FLOTSAM. (2006).  Kirkus Reviews.  Retrieved September 14, 2011 from

Scarborough Library Children Book Exhibit (n.d.) Caldecott Medal Books. Retrieved September 14, 2011 from

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