Mind's Eye - by Ellen Orleans

I was immediately drawn to David Wiesner’s FLOTSAM not by its splendid watercolors and ocean themes, but—right on the story’s first page—by a drawing of an LBI beach badge pinned to a canvas tote.


As a long-time summer visitor to Long Beach Island (that is me at the beach on the right), I know these badges well, and thereby also knew, through this level of accurate detail, that this section of the Jersey Shore must also be close to the author’s heart.






The beach badge is just one example of the marvelous minutiae that fills Flotsam (its inside covers are also not to be missed.) From dune grass and rocky jetties to brightly colored beach umbrellas, Wiesner’s pages are chocked with alluring detail—both highly accurate and highly (we assume!) whimsical (who does that tentacle venturing out of the boy’s pencil box belong to, anyway…?). Wiesner not only captures the look of the beach (I can hear waves crash and seagulls squawking!), but—and here’s the first take-way—demonstrates the value of close observation.

And observe his protagonist does. In the opening (un-numbered) pages of this textless story, an inquisitive boy peers through a magnifying glass at a crab, binoculars and even a microscope (neatly sealed in a large Zip-lock bag) at his side.

When the boy walks closer to the water to look at a larger crab, he is tumbled by a rouge wave which washes up a Melville Underwater Camera (Wiesner named it in honor of Herman Melville.) When developed, the photos in reveal a fantastical underwater world of an octopus’ living room (a submerged moving truck seen just in the background), bands of tiny space aliens surrounded by dominant seahorses, islands atop starfish, and shell towns atop the backs of turtles. The world, Wiesner playfully reminds us, is a splendidly mysterious place.




The final photo in the camera roll depicts a girl, holding a photo of a boy, who’s holding yet another of another girl, each smaller than the rest. Ever resourceful, the boy examines this photo first with his magnifying glass, then with the microscope, revealing increasingly smaller images that cross oceans and travel back in time. Here, Wiesner underlines both our connection to the larger world and our responsibility to future generations.



After his parents pack up their beach chairs and walk home, the boy remains at the beach, where he takes a picture of himself holding the photo of the children who came before him, then tosses the camera back into the ocean for the next starfish, sea turtle, or squid to find, for the next child to discover.




While I’ve never seen mechanical fish while swimming in the Atlantic Ocean or spied octopi reading in sea floor living rooms, I have experienced a lot of beach magic: burrowing sand crabs, barnacle worlds clinging to rock jetties, tight flocks of {terns} Sanderlings that appear and disappear as they wheel in the sea air. The vastness of the sea amplifies my sense of wonder; Wiesner’s microscope and magnifying glass the perfect metaphors.


Another running, unsaid (well, everything in this story is unsaid) commentary in FLOTSAM is that adults often miss the magic. When the boy brings the mysterious roll of film to the clerk at the one-hour photo shop, she never gets off the phone while helping him, and hence misses the story of a life time. And while the boy’s parents support his curiosity, they are in their own worlds while he discovers new ones.



Even the title, FLOTSAM, another word for debris or refuse, begs the question: What do we value? Sunday afternoons in box stores instead of box canyons? Netflix instead of night sky? More video games? Fewer state parks?

As a staffer and volunteer for Boulder’s city and county Open Space, I lead hikes for children and adults. While I love learning the names of birds, trees, and flowers, on my hikes I emphasize something else: close observation. Sometimes we sketch pages in nature journals, other times we take photographs. Another activity includes a pack of color swatches from a book of abandoned paint samples. I generally pass out all the samples, allowing participants to choose whichever they want as they try to match their color to flowers, lichen, rocks, or other objects that pass as we hike.


For a recent kids’ hike, though, I handed out only greens. Initially, I was concerned that limiting the color selection to four dozen shades of green would be too challenging to the early-elementary kids who comprised this “Five Senses Nature Hike.” But the children loved it, carefully comparing pine, emerald, kelly, pea and sea green the grasses, pine needles, stems, and leaves they saw.


Another event I developed is simply called “The Magnification Hike,” and I thought of it when I re-read Flotsom and saw the boy’s bulging eye through the magnifying glass. For this hike, I’ve devised and borrowed several “looking activities,” but really, the big hit of the hike is the magnifying glass. I put on in every child’s hand and off they go. They are thrilled by things we usually step right over: Ants in dirt! Bugs on a rock ! Tiny, tiny hairs on a flower stem.

Consider Flotsam an invitation to take a closer look. And please, let me know what you find.






65 comments:

Gail G said...

I really like the paint swatch hike idea! I'll pass this idea on to the science and art teachers in my school.

Ellen Orleans said...

Thanks Gail. Readers, feel free to share activities that you've found successful for connecting kids to the natural world.

Bea B said...

Excellently enticing review! I also appreciated hearing about the creativity and variety offered in your outdoor kids' (of all ages) activities!

Frankie said...

I always enjoy Weisner, and must get this book. Love the description of this charming and thought-provoking text combined with the real-life ways you have explored/taught others to explore this amazing world we inhabit. I also love the combination of your photos with the boy and girl's photos with photos with photos. There's an echo there that feels noteworthy and authentic.

Verna Wilder said...

Ellen, you made this book come alive for me with your review and your own memories. I'm not a kid anymore - well, not chronologically - but I'm going to buy this book for myself and keep it near my bed to "read" before I sleep. I wonder what kind of dreams I will have.

Daphne said...

Great post. It makes me want to re-visit LBI (where I went as a kid too!) and go for a hike with a magnifying glass and some paint swatches. Thanks for the great ideas.

Margot said...

Inspiring! I often carry binoculars; I'm going to add a magnifying glass.

Jan Hummer said...

Please share any activities your imagination may create inspired by Ellen's review of FLOTSAM on the accompanying Sharing Curriculum Blogspot.

Ellen Orleans said...

Margot -- Your comment about carrying a magnifying glass made me wonder -- what tools do you all take with you on nature outings? Cameras, loops, binoculars, field guides?

How do these tools help you or children with you connect with nature? Do they ever become a barrier instead of a bridge?

Linda Tate said...

Ellen--This is an excellent review, and I can't wait to "read" "Flotsam." This also made me think of Rachel Carson's "Sense of Wonder" -- as she also ponders what adults too often miss. You can read my post about "Sense of Wonder" earlier on this blog. Linda

Anne Post said...

Linda Tate's The Sense of Wonder blog post

Dawn Paulo said...

Ellen, I love the mix of surreal & real here--in our rush to "educate" kids we miss the fun sometimes. Thanks!

Dana E said...

Ellen, thanks for your charming and eye-opening review of this book (and our culture and our ways of seeing or not). I'm looking forward to your future reviews. And please keep including activities you've tried with children!

Candace said...

I'll pass this review along to my sister, who teaches 5th grade in South Seattle...She works w/ kids whose second or third language is English, so the visual narrative will be most welcome.

Thanks for the terrific review, Ellen. I was especially drawn to your description of the final photo in the camera roll...in these times the more ways we have to delight in our connections w/ the larger world and our responsiblity to future generations, the better.

May it be so -- that delight & responsibility go hand in hand.

Anonymous said...

generic viagra 50mg viagra 36 hour - viagra for women research

Anonymous said...

viagra online without prescription buy cheap viagra with mastercard - viagra 30 year old male

Anonymous said...

viagra online without prescription viagra for women with antidepressants - viagra dosage and directions

Anonymous said...

buy soma soma catering costa rica - soma fm online radio

Anonymous said...

soma medication buy soma online us pharmacy - soma medication history

Anonymous said...

buy soma online cheap lunch soma san francisco - order soma watson

Anonymous said...

buy soma soma 350 mg strong - soma coupons

Anonymous said...

buy soma online generic soma images - buy soma online cheap

Anonymous said...

soma drug can soma pills get you high - buy somatropin south africa

Anonymous said...

buy soma online can you buy soma in usa - valium and soma drug interactions

Anonymous said...

buy cialis cialis soft tabs online - low price cialis

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online without a prescription buy tramadol legally online - tramadol death by overdose

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online order cheap tramadol cod - usual dosage tramadol

Anonymous said...

tramadol online tramadol 50mg - tramadol no prescription overnight cod

Anonymous said...

buy xanax bars online xanax pills does do - xanax 5 panel drug test

Anonymous said...

buy carisoprodol carisoprodol dosage for dogs - carisoprodol ibuprofen

Anonymous said...

is it illegal to buy xanax online much do 2mg xanax cost - cheap generic xanax no prescription

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol online cheap tramadol hcl good pain - buy tramadol online in florida

Anonymous said...

buy xanax drug interactions xanax and nyquil - buy alprazolam china

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol signs tramadol overdose dogs - order tramadol online no prescription

Anonymous said...

generic xanax xanax 2mg bars generic - canadian pharmacy xanax no prescription needed

Anonymous said...

buy carisoprodol carisoprodol soma scheduled drug - carisoprodol 350 mg review

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol overnight tramadol hcl 200 er - cope tramadol addiction

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol tramadol ultram alcohol - tramadol equivalent

Anonymous said...

xanax online xanax dosage dogs weight - xanax side effects violent

Anonymous said...

xanax online ritalin and xanax drug interactions - buy xanax mexican pharmacy

Anonymous said...

buy cialis online where to buy cialis online in usa - buy cialis online pharmacy

Anonymous said...

cialis online cialis heart attack - buy cialis at amazon

Anonymous said...

xanax online blue xanax bars 2mg - overdose on xanax and alcohol

Anonymous said...

xanax online how much does generic xanax cost without insurance - what is xanax used for recreation

Anonymous said...

cialis online cialis daily not working - where can i buy cialis genuine

Anonymous said...

cialis online generic cialis nz - buy cialis no prescription usa

Anonymous said...

cialis online cialis 5 mg online-apotheke - buy cialis usa online

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol order tramadol cod next day delivery - tramadol for dogs with kidney disease

Anonymous said...

learn how to buy tramdadol tramadol sr tablet 100mg - tramadol dosage 60 lb dog

Anonymous said...

buy tramadol buy tramadol online fedex delivery - tramadol for dogs is it the same for humans

Anonymous said...

http://www.integrativeonc.org/adminsio/buyklonopinonline/#8491 klonopin online pharmacy - klonopin side effects yahoo

Anonymous said...

buy klonopin online cheap klonopin for flying - klonopin cost

Anonymous said...

tramadol no prescription tramadol 100 mg iv - tramadol er 100mg tablets

Anonymous said...

order tramadol online cod buy tramadol now - tramadol 50 mg snort

Anonymous said...

http://landvoicelearning.com/#30896 tramadol 50 mg can you snort - tramadol 50 mg like vicodin

Anonymous said...

buy klonopin online overdose on klonopin death - where to buy clonazepam

Anonymous said...

tramadol no prescription safe place buy tramadol - 100mg tramadol withdrawal

Anonymous said...

learn how to buy tramdadol tramadol 50mg ratiopharm - tramadol 50mg tablets dosage

Anonymous said...

buy klonopin online klonopin online overnight - klonopin .75mg

Anonymous said...

carisoprodol 350 mg 350 mg carisoprodol generic soma - carisoprodol efectos secundarios

Anonymous said...

http://southcarolinaaccidentattorney.com/#60124 carisoprodol recreational use - can overdose carisoprodol

Anonymous said...

Me and ozzy fucked tougher, trying to show to my god!
FUCK YES!' just before cumming inside my warm pussy. were still fucking

Visit my site :: hcg injections

Anonymous said...

Your curгеnt artіclе offeгѕ
confіrmeԁ nеcessаry to mе ρersonally.
It’ѕ еxtremely eduсational and you're clearly really experienced in this field. You have got exposed my own sight for you to numerous thoughts about this particular topic along with interesting and reliable articles.

Feel free to surf to my web-site :: Http://Poibella.Org/Osbcc/Wiki/Index.Php/User:EugenioSne
Check out my blog :: Xanax

Anonymous said...

Howdy woulԁ you mind ѕtatіng which blοg ρlatform you're using? I'm planning to ѕtart my own
blog soon but I'm having a difficult time making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I'm looking for something uniquе.
Ρ.S Soгry for gettіng off-topiс but I had to ask!


My blog post; hcg injection diet

Anonymous said...

Gгeаt post. I used to be cheсking
continuοuslу this blоg and I'm impressed! Very helpful information specially the remaining section :) I deal with such info a lot. I was seeking this certain information for a very long time. Thank you and good luck.

my web page - hcg diet dangers