Flotsam by David Wiesner

I first discovered Flotsam by David Wiesner as a part of my very first Mock Caldecott unit in the classroom, and it has been towards the top of my all-time favorite picture books ever since then. Wiesner’s books tend to always be amazing (see my review of Art & Max here, and his Sector 7 made my list of “90 Books for 90 Days of Summer,” which you can find here). If you hang around the children’s book world long enough you’ll likely hear the term “wordless wonder,” and Flotsam is indeed a wordless wonder in every way.


Told solely in stunning watercolor illustrations, Flotsam is the story of a boy (a very scientific boy, by the way, who brings binoculars, a microscope, and a magnifying glass to the beach!) who finds a very old, barnacle-encrusted underwater camera washed up with a wave. He opens it up, develops the roll of film inside, and the story unfolds from here.

This underwater camera, it turns out, had captured some absolutely magnificent ocean scenes– as well as some scenes that might make your wildest oceanic dreams come true! But, the part that makes this story a true wonder, in my opinion, is how Wiesner tells a “picture in picture in picture” story without using any words! This story compels the boy to leave his own mark on this camera before he throws it back to the ocean, for the next curious explorer to find!


While I am always blown away at how wordless storytellers can convey such intricate plotlines and ranges of emotion using only pictures, Wiesner’s illustrations in Flotsam set it apart from almost any other wordless wonder I’ve ever read. Did you even know it was possible to have colors this rich and vibrant using only watercolors? I’m not sure I did until I read Flotsam! I love his use of vignettes, small illustrations set inside larger illustrations, double spreads, and more, to effectively draw our attention to various aspect of the story and move the plot along. Readers can take this story in so many different directions, and one reader’s story may even change over time as his perspective and observations change!


I could go on and on and on about the wonder that is Flotsam, but please, just check it out yourself! It makes a perfect summer or beach read (in fact, it’s on both my “Beach Books” and “90 Books for 90 Days of Summer” lists), so grab it from the library today!


If you liked this, check out some of our other favorite wordless wonders:

What are your favorite wordless picture books? Comment below so we can all discover more this summer!

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