Two-time Caldecott Medalist David Wiesner turns from the flying frogs in Tuesday and the cloud factory in Sector 7 to the mysteries of the sea in yet another brilliant, wordless picture book, Flotsam. Like many of the author's creations, this story begins with an inquisitive child, a boy observing crabs with his magnifying glass along the ocean shore. Without warning, a wave deposits a barnacle-encrusted Brownie-style camera, labeled the "Melville Underwater Camera," before the protagonist.
After waiting a seemingly endless hour for the film to be developed, the boy views a set of fantastical underwater photographs: wind-up fish with gears, an octopus family reading to its young by the light of bioluminescent fish, a colony of tiny people residing atop the shells of sea turtles, and stretching starfish-islands. But wait! There's also a photograph of a girl holding a photograph of a boy. And within that photograph is another boy holding a photograph of a girl. Puzzled, the boy first uses his magnifying glass, and then a microscope, to observe each child's photograph, ending with a sepia-toned, turn-of-the-20th-century image of a boy his own age. An open-ended conclusion leaves room for any child's sense of wonder to carry on.
Wiesner proves why he is an award-winning storyteller and illustrator with vivid watercolors that range from vignettes to spectacular full- and double-page panoramic views. Wonderful displays of imagination are evident throughout, as are small touches of humor, such as a photo of overly eager visiting aliens and their unruly children. Older and more astute readers will find many surprises, including a hint to the boy's discovery in the book's cover art, a reference to Wiesner's The Three Pigs on the title page, and a clever imitation of a classic Japanese print, Katsushika Hokusai's "The Great Wave at Kanagawa."
Most importantly, Wiesner continues to show children that things aren't always what they seem. Would the Caldecott committee consider a three-peat?
Angela Leeper is an educational consultant and writer in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Copyright 2006 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2007 Spring
In Wiesner's latest wordless book, a boy at the beach closely examines items washed up from the sea; when a wave brings forth an old camera, the boy's viewing takes a radical shift. He gets the film developed, allowing Wiesner's imagination great play. The meticulous and rich detail of the clue- and fancy-strewn watercolors makes this fantasy involving and convincing. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2006 #5
With its careful array of beachcombed items, the title page spread of Wiesner's latest picture book makes it look like one of those Eyewitness books, but the following wordless story is far stranger than fact. In clue- and fancy-strewn full-page paintings and panels, a boy at the beach closely examines items and animals washed in from the sea; when a wave deposits an old camera on the shore, his viewing takes a radical shift. He gets the camera's film developed at a nearby shop, allowing Wiesner's bountiful imagination great play in the series of photos the boy then examines: a robot fish, an octopus reading aloud to its offspring, giant starfish with islands on their backs. And: a seaside photo of a girl holding a seaside photo of a boy, holding a seaside photo of another child, ad infinitum. The inquisitive boy's ready magnifying glass and microscope allow him to see further and further into the photo, and further back in time, as revealed by the increasingly old-fashioned clothes worn by the children pictured. What to do but add himself to the sequence? The meticulous and rich detail of Wiesner's watercolors makes the fantasy involving and convincing; children who enjoyed scoping out Banyai's Zoom books and Lehman's The Red Book will keep a keen eye on this book about a picture of a picture of a picture of a.... Copyright 2006 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2006 August #1
From arguably the most inventive and cerebral visual storyteller in children's literature, comes a wordless invitation to drift with the tide, with the story, with your eyes, with your imagination. A boy at the beach picks up a barnacle-encrusted underwater camera. He develops the film, which produces, first, pictures of a surreal undersea world filled with extraordinary details (i.e., giant starfish bestride the sea carrying mountainous islands on their backs), and then a portrait of a girl holding a picture of a boy holding a picture of another boy . . . and so on . . . and on. Finally, the boy needs a microscope to reveal portraits of children going back in time to a sepia portrait of a turn-of-the-century lad in knickers. The boy adds his own self-portrait to the others, casts the camera back into the waves, and it is carried by a sea creature back to its fantastic depths to be returned as flotsam for another child to find. 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. (Picture book. 6-11) Copyright Kirkus 2006 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Media Connection - February 2007
David Wiesner, an award-winning children's illustrator and author, tells the exciting adventures of a young boy during his day at the shore in this wordless picture book. Using sequences of photos done in watercolors, the author introduces an inquisitive character who finds an antique underwater camera. The camera and the mystery of the sea fuel his wild imagination. The snapshots show natural objects and sea creatures taking surreal forms, such as big red fish with mechanistic knobs and aliens living on the sea floor, when viewed through the camera lens. These fantastic images stop temporarily when he discovers the camera's photos, each depicting a different culture. The boy decides to take a self-portrait, places all the photos back in the camera, and tosses it into the sea. The camera travels to many distant destinations until a young island girl finds the camera, and the book ends with this cycle beginning anew. Younger children may have trouble making sense of the unorganized groupings of photos. Older readers will delight in piecing together the pictures chronologically and will also enjoy the gripping artwork, including the crashing waves that seem to rumble in one's mind. Recommended. Caroline Geck, Librarian, Kean University, Union, New Jersey © 2007 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2006 July #4
Two-time Caldecott winner Wiesner (Tuesday ; The Three Pigs ) crafts another wordless mystery, this one set on an ordinary beach and under an enchanted sea. A saucerlike fish's eye stares from the exact center of the dust jacket, and the fish's scarlet skin provides a knockout background color. First-timers might not notice what's reflected in its eye, but return visitors will: it's a boxy camera, drifting underwater with a school of slim green fish. In the opening panels, Wiesner pictures another close-up eye, this one belonging to a blond boy viewing a crab through a magnifying glass. Visual devicesâ€"binoculars and a microscope in a plastic bagâ€"rest on a nearby beach towel, suggesting the boy's optical curiosity. After being tossed by a wave, the studious boy finds a barnacle-covered apparatus on the sand (evocatively labeled the "Melville Underwater Camera"). He removes its roll of film and, when he gets the results, readers see another close-up of his wide-open, astonished eye: the photos depict bizarre undersea scenes (nautilus shells with cutout windows, walking starfish-islands, octopi in their living room la Tuesday 's frogs). A lesser fantasist would end the story here, but Wiesner provides a further surprise that connects the curious boy with others like him. Masterfully altering the pace with panel sequences and full-bleed spreads, he fills every inch of the pages with intricate, imaginative watercolor details. New details swim into focus with every rereading of this immensely satisfying excursion. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)[Page 56]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
K-Gr 4 A wave deposits an old-fashioned contraption at the feet of an inquisitive young beachcomber. Itâ€™s a â€œMelville underwater camera,â€ and the excited boy quickly develops the film he finds inside. The photos are amazing: a windup fish, with intricate gears and screwed-on panels, appears in a school with its living counterparts; a fully inflated puffer, outfitted as a hot-air balloon, sails above the water; miniature green aliens kowtow to dour-faced sea horses; and more. The last print depicts a girl, holding a photo of a boy, and so on. As the images become smaller, the protagonist views them through his magnifying glass and then his microscope. The chain of children continues back through time, ending with a sepia image of a turn-of-the-20th-century boy waving from a beach. After photographing himself holding the print, the youngster tosses the camera back into the ocean, where it makes its way to its next recipient. This wordless bookâ€™s vivid watercolor paintings have a crisp realism that anchors the elements of fantasy. 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. Pair this visual adventure with Wiesnerâ€™s other works, Chris Van Allsburgâ€™s titles, or Barbara Lehmanâ€™s The Red Book (Houghton, 2004) for a mind-bending journey of imagination.Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal[Page 186]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.