Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Flotsam by David Weisner

by David Wiesner
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Clarion Books; illustrated edition edition (September 4, 2006)
ISBN: 978-0618194575
Buy This Book on Amazon: Flotsam (Caldecott Medal Book)

For today's installment of Book Nook Breakdown, I've selected Flotsam, the Caldecott winning instant classic from David Wiesner.

A genius of the wordless narrative, Wiesner's picture books capture and indulge in the pure fantastic capabilities of illustration. His proclivity for telling rich stories within stories comes from a superior level of the creative mind I myself can only dream of. And although this is a picture book without any words, it does take some sophistication to fully grasp the meaning of the story.

A story that starts in reality and quickly transforms into a journey through whimsical tableaus of the impossible, only to come back right where we started and full of potential for countless more untold stories. It's everything you could hope for out of a purely pictorial voyage. I know that it's definitely a book I would have embraced as a child, likely spinning my own drawings and imaginings from where Wiesner's left off. That is a magical quality that I wish more books had; to feel as if the book goes on even after the cover is closed.

As always, Wiesner's images are beautifully executed, and fish and animals landscapes and artifacts are clearly his strength. I love his work, but I do think his people and faces fall a bit short of perfection. His child faces tend to be a bit wonky, his bodies and expressions a bit stiff. To me, it seems as if he's much more interested in drawing everything else. Luckily he does everything else so well.


Every book with pictures has the potential to strengthen visual literacy, a skill equally as important as verbal literacy. We mustn't forget that children actually have a greater ability to interpret pictures than adults do--because their inquiring minds are constantly asking what is happening as a way of understanding the world around them. Children notice visual cues and hints faster and in greater numbers than adults do. A book like Flotsam is key in reading images, and really hits the mark with creating an engaging and complex story that requires active reader attention and analysis.


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