Flotsam, my first wordless picture book, feels age inappropriate. From what I gather picture books are generally aimed at 3 to 8-year-olds. I have doubts a child in that range would be able to fully comprehend the story without help from an elder. Does a 6-year-old know what a microscope is and what it’s used for? Will they understand the images shown at different magnifications? A few Goodreads reviews say that it doesn’t matter if a child understands or not, they might make up their own story.
A boy at the beach is studying the flotsam to wash up on shore where he stumbles on a camera. He develops the film to find photos of children dating back decades. It seems they each found the camera the same way and took photos of themselves holding the photo of the child who possessed the camera before them and then threw the camera back into the sea.
I struggled to comprehend the significance of the random sci-fi/fantasy artwork had to do with the story, which were actually what I liked most. They appeared more modern in style and vibrancy. A steampunk clockwork fish. Villages made of seashells on the backs of turtles. Little green men landing their spaceships underwater. Islands which are actually starfish who hop up on their legs and walk elsewhere. Mermaids.
After reading a few Goodreads reviews, I’m still not entirely sure of their relevance. I’m guessing these scenes were depicting what the boy imagined marine life was like, what he thought he might see in the developed film from the underwater camera. This is also another thing which dates the book. No one develops camera film now, not in the first world. I can’t think of a single retailer which does, so continuing on that tradition would be difficult.
The camera concept feels very familiar to me. I’m sure I’ve seen this but with a camera phone. The discoverer took pictures of themselves and then left the phone to be discovered by someone else. The phone travelled all over the world. I just can’t remember where I saw this, whether it was a news item or part of a TV show.
While there are multiethnic characters, the majority of the illustrations starring people seemed rather dated, ones I wouldn’t be surprised to see in a book from the 1970s, so much so that I had to check the publication date – 2006. Huh.
Overall, I didn’t enjoy this one despite its uniqueness in incorporating science and the thrill of discovery. It’s not something I’d recommend.