From this Caldecott Honor–winning duo (Song of the Water Boatman, 2005) comes another breathtaking picture book eight years in the making in large part due to its 4.6 billion-year-old subject—Earth and its hardiest creatures. Asked how a discussion of beetle wings with her biologist sister led to this brilliant evolutionary timeline of Earth’s survivors, ranging from 3.8 billion-year-old bacteria to mere 100,000-year-old humans, Joyce Sidman says that “the Big Question that led to the book was: Why do some organisms thrive while others die out?” Beckie Prange’s arresting hand-watercolored linocuts shine throughout, especially in the endpapers, which depict to scale the relative evolutionary ages of these select survivors. “Using measured string and winding it across the page to make it interesting took me three and a half times to get right,” says Prange. Sidman also chose some innovative approaches—riveting encyclopedic entries to capture what fascinating details couldn’t be worked into the lyric poems describing each set of creatures—to entice young readers to this heady subject. Sidman says that the most surprising thing she learned was “the fact that 99 percent of all the species on Earth have died out.” Prange hopes facts like that, coupled with her brightly hued illustrations, will encourage young readers to be “more curious about how life works.”


Five of Joyce Sidman’s favorite recent books:

Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes, by Sally Mavor—"Absolutely stunning artwork."

Continue reading >


The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe, by Loree Griffin Burns—"Fascinating story, terrific book design."

Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys, by Bob Raczka—"Simple, winning, and still definitely poetry."

The Chiru of High Tibet: A True Story, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin—"Lovely, lyrical writing about a very fetching animal."

Alphabeasties and Other Amazing Types, by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss—"Who knew letters could do all this?"


Want more great books for animal lovers? Click here to see the others from Kirkus’ Best Children's Books of 2010.

It's been a year of picture-book bounty—to see our complete list of the best of 2010, click here.

For a complete list of all the nonfiction among Kirkus’ Best Children's Books of 2010, click here.

Pub info:

Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors

Joyce Sidman; illustrated by Beckie Prange

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt / April / 9780618717194 / $17.00 / ages 8 & up