Sometimes you don’t need words to tell a story. David Wiesner didn’t need any for his picture book, Flotsam. What is flotsam, anyway? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as the “floating wreckage of a ship or its cargo; miscellaneous or unimportant material”. 

The picture book is about a little boy out on the beach discovering all sorts of coastal life, including a very surprised looking crab. Suddenly, he finds a camera! A really old one, too. Is it flotsam? The camera even has a film roll in it – yes, that’s how most people took photos before technology went digital.

The little boy develops the film roll, and sees all sorts of wondrous underwater life. A sea turtle with its world on its back, an octopus lounging in a discarded sofa, and huge starfish dancing in the ocean. Then he sees images of different children, holding different photographs! What is this, he wonders – and looks even more closely.

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He realises that this camera has been passed on for generations! Yes, from one generation to another. There are even black-and-white pictures in there. 

The boy takes his own photograph, and then like all the other children before him, throws the camera back into the ocean. Off it goes, helped along by animals and birds, to another child, to preserve more memories. 

Remember, if you’re going to the beach, take lots of pictures – but don’t disturb the animals. A shell could be home to a hermit crab, and a starfish can survive only for a time out of water. But explore! Observe all the animals around you – there’s so much to learn from just watching them.

In collaboration with BAM Books, an Instagram-led project that highlights diverse books for children and young adults.

Other stories in this Guest Editor package: 

Guest Editor Diaries: Starry-Eyed About Ground Birds: Seven-year-old Anshul Vaidya assigns stories to the NiF team.

Trek Or Treat?: Editor Anshul Vaidya writes about his overnight trek to Harishchandragad, one of his favourite places to be.

The Stars Of The Sea: Marine biologist Vardhan Patankar tells us why starfish have been fascinating people for centuries.

Birds Of A Different Feather: Scientist P Jeganathan writes a letter explaining why ground birds prefer to feed and nest on the ground.