Sidman, Joyce, and Beckie Prange. Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature's Survivors. Boston [Mass.]: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010.
Joyce Sidman combines beautiful poetry with factual information about some of the creatures that have survived on our planet for millions of years. Sidman and Prange have collaborated in the past on the award winning title, Song of the Water Boatman, which received a Caldecott Honor. Sidman also received a more recent Caldecott Honor with her title, Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Color. Her most recent title, Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night is due out this Fall.
Be sure to check out the author's website for more information. Also check out the illustrator's website for more details on how she creates her illustrations.
The end papers of this book are a great introduction to the topic. The illustrator's note at the end of the book explains that this is a graphic representation of the timeline of life on Earth. From this illustration we can see that the Earth has been around for a very long time and that for most of that time there was little to no life on the planet and that humans have only existed for a very short amout of time in the history of Earth.
We also learn that 99% of all species that have existed at one point in time on Earth are now extinct. This makes us think about those species that have survived and just how they have managed this spectacular accomplishment.
Each two page spread in this book is about a different creature. Most of two page spreads contain a poem about the creature on the left hand side and some factual information on the right hand side. The creatures appear in the order they have appeared on Earth with the oldest creatures appearing first. Bacteria is the first creature showcased and we learn that it has been around for 3.8 billion years! We then learn about mollusks, lichen, sharks, beetles, diatoms, geckos, ants, grasses, squirrels, crows, dandelions, coyotes, and finally humans. Some of the poems are displayed in creative ways, for example the shark poem is written in the shape of a shark.
The colorful illustrations add to the understanding of the creature and are very well done. The illustrations also teach the reader some additional facts. For example, we see the life cycle of a beetle with labels, the various shapes of bacteria, lichen and diatoms, the details of an ant colony, and several different types of grasses. On the humans pages, the poem is about a baby and we see a baby with some toys including play cars; while the humans information page shows a cityscape with real cars on a highway.
The end of the book contains a glossary of words introduced in the book. This includes ubiquitous which means something that is or something that seems to be everywhere at the same time. There is also a note from the author and the illustrator. The author's note includes more information about the book, how the creatures were put in order, and resources she used when writing the book.
This book has received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, Horn Book, School Library Journal, and Kirkus and it is a Junior Library Guild selection.
You can read an interview with the author at School Library Journal's website and at the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.
The author recommends the following websites for further exploration: Tree of Life Web Project and the Encyclopedia of Life.
Extension Activities: This book opens the doors to many discussions about survival, extinction, and human history. There are many poetry and creative writing activities that could be performed after reading the poems of this book. Further research about the creatures included in this book could be carried out. Students could also research additional creatures in relation to their place in the Earth's history. A study of timelines could be completed after reading this book as well.
Be sure to check out the other Nonfiction Monday reviews, this week hosted by In Need of Chocolate.