What is it like for a child to discover the wonder of the world?
When I was growing up, I lived in Florida in a little city called Lakeland about an hour outside of Tampa; I remember the first time I pressed driftwood between my toes, shook out sand from my hair and spotted a stingray in the surf (they were surprisingly common in Clearwater). Flotsam, a picture book about the seashore by the Caldecott award-winning children’s author David Wiesner, beautifully captures one such moment.
Flotsam begins with a boy who finds an old-fashioned brownie camera washed up on the sand. He picks it up and turns it over in his hands while the waves crash around him; he brings the camera to his eye and peers inside. Before long he is marveling at images taken in a variety of underseas locations: in a room full of fishes, beside a giant squid, across a seabed full of seahorses and mermen. These full-page images are lovingly drawn and painted, each one a tiny treasury packed full of color, creativity and detail. By the end of the book, the child reader will feel as if he has been taken along for the journey too, with a wealth of images to remind her of it upon every reading.
I’ve used Flotsam in the classroom, primarily with 1st and 2nd graders; the intricate detail of the pictures fascinates them, and many of the children enthusiastically point out and explain the witty visual jokes to their friends. For a young audience, I can highly recommend the book. Some children can imagine better when you feed their eyes first. Flotsam does a fine job of providing that sustenance for them, a wonderful adventure that rewards keen observation and multiple readings.
posted by Julian Martinez, Writers in the Schools