Flotsam

by David Wiesner

Publishers Weekly : Starred Review. 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 devices—binoculars and a microscope in a plastic bag—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 à 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.)

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School Library Journal : Starred Review. K-Gr 4–A wave deposits an old-fashioned contraption at the feet of an inquisitive young beachcomber. Itâ??s a â??Melville 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

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