Wednesday, November 15

Flotsam


by David Wiesner
Clarion Books 2006

Another wordless journey into the imaginary landscapes of Wiesner's imagination. This particular trip takes us to the beach where a curious young boy discovers a camera washed up on the shore. The boy takes the curious old box (a Melville, not unlike an old Kodak Brownie, also not the only visual gag in the book) to have the photos developed where he discovers a secret world beneath the waves. The photos reveal mechanical fish along side the real thing, aquatic families nestled in fully furnished surroundings provided by old shipwrecks, small tropical islands that are living -- and mobile -- organisms themselves. And toward the end a photo of a girl holding up a photo that includes a photo of a boy holding a photo... in a seemingly endless progression that requires a microscope to see all the way back to before the turn of the century and the birth of photography.

Understanding his role in history's continuum the boy reloads the camera with film and takes a picture of himself holding the photo of the other beachcombing children before tossing the camera back out into the tide. There the camera is rediscovered by the undersea world where they all delight in capturing their unseen carnival of life until the time comes to send the camera back to the shore for another generation to discover.

Wiesner combines the interconnected book-within-a-book of Barbara Lehman's The Red Book with the world-within-a-world detail of Banyai's Zoom and Re-Zoom books. It's a snapshot, if you will, of the edge of innocence where the fantastic (an imagined undersea world by a bored kid on a beach) meets the harsh realities of the scientific (the boy has brought both a magnifying glass and a microscope to the beach). It speaks to that dream of being the one to discover a new, unseen world and holding that knowledge privately, a secret from a world.
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