Written By: David Wiesner

Before Reading

Explore Illustrations:

Flotsam is an incredible, wordless story of a boy’s day at the beach and the discoveries that he makes there. Begin your discussion by explaining what the word “flotsam” means. Say that flotsam is any floating pieces or parts from a shipwreck. Then discuss your child’s predictions of the story based on the title. Ask questions like:

What do you see in the picture?

Where does this story take place?

What do you think this story will be about?

What do you like to do at the beach?

While it may seem confusing at first, reading wordless books can be an incredibly powerful learning tool. They inspire the imagination, giving children the opportunity to “read” to you and create a new story each time you read.

As You Read

One way to approach this book is by taking turns narrating the illustrations. You can begin by stringing together the different elements in the pictures to create a story. For example, on the page where the boy is looking through his microscope, say, “Let’s give this boy a name. We can call him _________. He is on a vacation with his family to the beach and _______ loves to examine cool animals with his microscope. He is curious about how they look and walk.” Continue narrating one or two more pages and then allow your child to take a stab at it, encouraging him to use the things s/he sees in the pictures to construct a storyline. Ask, “What do you see? What do you think is happening in the story right now?”Be sure to point out the characters’ facial expressions and incorporate their emotions in your storytelling. Ask, “How do you think the girl in this picture feels? Why do you think that?”

Making Connections:

Discuss your child’s last or favorite trip to the beach. Talk about his/her memories of the trip and any interesting things that may have happened. Ask, “Did you find anything interesting on the beach like shells or crabs?” If your child has never been to the beach, ask him/her how s/he imagines it would be and what s/he would do if s/he were to go one day.

After Reading

Summarize and Interpret:

Talk with your child about what s/he discovered in the story by asking questions like:

What did the boy find on the shore?

What was on the film that he got developed from the camera?

What did he do once he saw the pictures?

What do you think will happen now that he has returned the camera to the ocean?

Next time you “read” the story, you may find new things to narrate and discuss together. That is the beauty of wordless books!

Activities: Take an Imaginary Beach Trip and Check Out What’s Under the Sea

Take an Imaginary Beach Trip

Inspired by Parent Club

Supplies:Beach chairs and toys, a blue towel or sheet, bathing suits, and wave sounds or tropical music

Here’s a great way to have a day at the beach whenever you want! Grab all of your beach gear (towels, chairs, bathing suits, sunglasses, etc) and set them up in your living room. If you have a large blue towel or blanket, that can serve as your pretend ocean. Once you are all set up, your pretend day at the beach can begin! Dip your toes in the water to feel its temperature, sit down on your chair to read a book or pretend to take a swim in your ocean. You can also play wave sounds or tropical music to set the mood.

Check Out What’s Under the Sea

From the National Geographic

This is a great resource that you can use to learn more about what goes on under the sea. There is loads of information, including videos and photographs, that will teach your child all about marine life and what it’s like to explore the bottom of the ocean.