Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas

Candlewick. May 2021. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781536214109.
Gr 1-4–This title explains how life began in the ocean, with surprising information, descriptive details, engaging illustrations, and page turns that propel readers forward. Shreeve and Preston-Gannon offer an interactive reading experience. Before the title page, three animals are shown (a hippo, a dolphin, and a shark) and the text poses the question, “Which two of these animals are the closest relatives?” The answer “starts with the smallest creature the world has ever known and ends with the biggest.” Throughout the book, the illustrations support and enhance the writing. A full-page illustration of an orange and red sky with a blazing yellow sun, an erupting volcano, and fiery hot water sets the scene for the beginning of life—the creation of single-celled microbes. Once the forms of life become more complex, the illustrations provide specific examples that support the information. When the text states, “higher oxygen levels provided fuel for life” and “all major types of animals began to take shape,” the illustrations depict labeled figures of mollusks, arthropods, echinoderms, and more. As the events of the narrative chronicle life and death both in the ocean and on the land, readers can begin to understand the joyous, wondrous, frightening complexity of the creation of life.
VERDICT A book to be read over and over for its intriguing story, illustrations, and captions. Pair it with Jonathan Tweet’s Grandmother Fish for a clear introduction to the basics of evolution.

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