Friday, July 5, 2013

Poetry Friday - A review of Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors

There are so many animal species on our planet today that sometimes we forget to remember that millions of species have gone extinct over the millennia. The ones that here now are the survivors, the ones who had that little something that made it possible for them to survive climate change, meteorite strikes, and the rise of humans. Today's book of poetry celebrates some of these survivors, and it is a wonderful book to explore and to share with others.

Joyce Sidman
Illustrated by Beckie Prange
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 7 and up
Houghton Mifflin, 2010, 978-0-618-71719-4
Four point six billion years ago Earth was a glowing ball floating in space; it was newly formed and was therefore, a place where living organisms could not survive. Then the seas began to form, and when the right conditions occurred, tiny single-celled organisms evolved. These bacteria were simple creatures, and yet they helped make our planet home suitable for the plants and animals that appeared later in Earth’s story. They were, in short “miraculous.” In fact, all the plant and animal species that exist today are miracles. Ninety-nine percent of all species that have appeared on Earth have gone extinct, which makes the one percent that are sharing Earth with us true survivors.
   Many millions of years after bacteria appeared shelled organisms called mollusks arrived on the scene. These animals have soft bodies that are protected by a shell. We often find the empty shells of these animals on beaches, and admire the beautiful cones and swirls. The pearly interiors of the shells look so lovely that we wish we could climb inside and knock on the shell’s
“tiny door / and ask to meet the mollusk” that made the shell.
   The author of this book then goes on to introduce us to several other families of living things that have been very successful here on Earth. These include the lichens, sharks, and diatoms. The poem about sharks is a delightfully clever concrete poem, and the one about diatoms is beautifully simple.
   Next, the author looks at several species that have survived on earth for many millions of years. We meet a gecko who can shed its tail when a predator threatens it. The fallen tail end wiggles and distracts the predator for long enough that the gecko has time to flee. These extraordinary animals wipe their eyes with their tongues, and they can climb straight up smooth walls thanks to tiny hairs on their feet that work rather like Velcro.
   Another species that we meet are ants, who “never seem to play at all,” and who form complex societies that have fascinated scientists for years. Later on in the book we come across a page dedicated to dandelions. It may seem strange that they are here, but then we remember how hard it is to get rid of dandelions in our lawns and gardens. These hardy plants can grow in many kinds of environments and are so successful that they can take over an area in no time at all.

   Throughout this book superbly crafted poems are paired with gorgeous illustrations and sections of informative text. Each piece of text includes information about how long the featured species or family has been around, which some people will find particularly interesting. Who knew that dandelions have been populating our planet for five million years!

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