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Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors [Kindle Edition]

Joyce Sidman , Beckie Prange

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Book Description

From the creators of the Caldecott Honor Book Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems comes a celebration of ubiquitous life forms among us. Newbery Honor-winning poet Joyce Sidman presents another unusual blend of fine poetry and fascinating science illustrated in exquisite hand-colored linocuts by Caldecott Honor artist Beckie Prange.

Ubiquitous (yoo-bik-wi-tuhs): Something that is (or seems to be) everywhere at the same time.

Why is the beetle, born 265 million years ago, still with us today? (Because its wings mutated and hardened). How did the gecko survive 160 million years? (By becoming nocturnal and developing sticky toe pads.) How did the shark and the crow and the tiny ant survive millions and millions of years? When 99 percent of all life forms on earth have become extinct, why do some survive? And survive not just in one place, but in many places: in deserts, in ice, in lakes and puddles, inside houses and forest and farmland? Just how do they become ubiquitous?

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 6910 KB
  • Print Length: 40 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (5 April 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004NNW8PA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
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More About the Author

Joyce Sidman is known for her fresh, inventive poetry for children. Her award-winning books include Song of the Water Boatman and Red Sings from Treetops (both Caldecott Honor Books), and Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, for which she won a Newbery Honor Award. Her books have been translated into several languages. A recent starred review said, "Sidman's ear is keen, capturing many voices. Her skill as a poet accessible to young people is unmatched." Born in Connecticut, USA, Joyce now lives in the midwestern state of Minnesota, where she teaches poetry-writing to children. Visit her at

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This superbly crafted blend of poetry and the "celebration" of Earth's rare "survivalist" life forms is simply stunning! 12 April 2010
By D. Fowler - Published on
Throughout time innumerable species have called Earth its home, yet a full 99% of these life forms have disappeared. Which ones have adapted to the relentless changes over the course of countless millennia and just how did they manage to survive when so many others perished? In this book you will learn about fourteen of them. You will learn about which botanical division they are in the hierarchy of life, how long they have existed on Earth, their size, and just how they managed to survive. You will begin with the first life form, bacteria, which began 3.8 billion years ago and will complete your journey with the human being and learn how our species survived after arriving 100,000 years ago. In between you will learn about the mollusks, lichens, sharks, beetles, diatoms, geckos, ants, grasses, squirrels, crows, dandelions, and coyotes.

Gecko on the Wall

Her jaws dart out
To crunch up flies.

Her tongue flicks up
To wipe her eyes.

She climbs up walls
With eerie cries.

Her tail comes off:
A wriggling prize!

She sprints and leaps
and slinks and spies . . .

Don't you wish you were a gecko?

This superbly crafted blend of poetry and the "celebration" of Earth's rare "survivalist" life forms is simply stunning. This blend brings something as simple as the lichen and actually makes it seem exciting. Each life form is accompanied by a poem and vibrant illustrations that animate the pages. The poems are varied and range from the diamante to an incredible free flowing verse that takes the form of a shark. I found and sensed a lot of excitement in a topic that normally many children would bypass as dull. This book brings new meaning to the phrase "survival of the fittest" and could easily be used as a stepping stone for a school report on one of the species noted in the book. If you want an engaging read about the ubiquitous survivors of the world, you might want to take a look at this marvelous book!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richie's Picks: UBIQUITOUS 24 May 2010
By N. S. - Published on
UBIQUITOUS by Joyce Sidman and Beckie Prange is the most exciting book I encountered last month at ALA in Boston.

UBIQUITOUS gracefully intertwines poetry, prose, and illustration on the topic of why certain life forms have beaten the odds and remained viable on our planet over unfathomable lengths of time while the vast majority of life forms have come and gone.

UBIQUITOUS exposes readers to a great variety of poetic forms and to the concept of having poetry and prose side by side. (Thus, modeling the concept of having a poem introduce a topic.) It is exactly what we -- well, I -- want to see happening with poetry in science and math and history classrooms and in the gymnasium and...well, does anybody out there still teach drivers ed?

UBIQUITOUS is a true picture book. The poems, prose, and illustrations interact and each contributes fully to the presentation of the concepts and to the enjoyment of the book. The prose segment of the spread on lichens (as with the others) runs approximately 150 clear and well-chosen words. The last book this duo designed was the Caldecott Honor book
SONG OF THE WATER BOATMAN & OTHER POND POEMS. I'm not going out on a limb -- just stating the obvious -- in predicting that members of several ALA committees, NCTE committees, IRA committees, and poetry award committees will all be fully aware of what is accomplished here.

UBIQUITOUS begins and ends with a creative and eye-catchingly colorful and swirling endpage timeline which depicts where many of the book's subjects fit into the scheme of things. (For those of us who remember high school science, that means that bacteria is way over to the left and everything else is way over to the right.) I am teaching a class to library students this summer on children's and young adult poetry and UBIQUITOUS will be the first trade poetry book each of them will be required to read for the class. It's that good.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful graphic depictions 14 April 2011
By M. Heiss - Published on
Sometimes, it is the chart that makes a book unique. There is a book called "Down, Down, Down" by Steve Jenkins that has a descending chart of the ocean depths - wow!

And there is a book called "Subway" by Christoph Niemann with a graphical depiction of the New York subway system that will knock your socks off.

And then there is this book, with a 4.6 billion year timeline squiggled across the end pages that really grabs your attention and shows you... just how long, just how vast, just how amazing the time on earth has been. There is telling, and then there is SHOWING. This book SHOWS you. I have a house full of VISUAL boys. Show them.

All the illustrations in this book are top-notch, but that timeline really steals the show. This book includes a poem for each survivor-life-form - these are the tough life forms that have withstood and will persevere.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WOWWWWW! Heavenly book--not just for kids 25 Nov. 2010
By Booked for life - Published on
This book will put a smile on anyone's face. Except a kid struggling with reading, because ubiquitous is long word. But for a kid with curiosity this is an adventure in a book. Poetry and science and art usually don't mix too well and there are actually several examples languishing in my library and yours. But this astonishing astonishing book manages to have light, beautiful poetry, rich art, and convenient capsules of information on a wide array of creatures. My staff was oohing and aahing over this book that just arrived in the library. It's probably the ideal book to give any natural scientist, "greener than thou" relative, or poetry lover. But the art just has to be seen to be believed. The page on grass was beautiful--how do you do that??
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique to us Ubiquitous 29 Oct. 2010
By E. R. Bird - Published on
I believe that there are different muses of children's literature. You have you Beautiful Spine muses, your Great Editor muses, your Awe-Inspiring Marketing muses, and your Copyediting Magnificence muses. Each one of these references those elements of the production of a book that authors and illustrators cannot wholly control. In terms of picture books, however, the greatest muse of all these, the big mama muse on high, would have to be the Serendipity Muse. This is the muse that pairs great authors with great illustrators to produce books of unparalleled beauty. And as I see it, poet Joyce Sidman and artist Beckie Prange must have independent alters dedicated to this muse tucked in a back corner of their gardening sheds or something. How else to explain their slam bang pairing? Besides a clever editor, of course. I mean first we saw them working together on "Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems", which immediately went on to win a highly coveted Caldecott Honor. Now this year we get to see their newest collaboration "Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature's Survivors". Much like "Water Boatman" this new pairing combines factual information with poems and pictures, but its focus is entirely different. And, of course, it's an equal pleasure to both ears and eyes. The muse knows her stuff.

"Ubiquitous (yoo-bik-wi-tuhs): Something that is (or seems to be) everywhere at the same time." Imagine having to select those denizens of earth that at one time or another were or are ubiquitous. The species that have managed to stay in existence long after most have gone extinct. It can't be easy but poet Joyce Sidman has her ways. In a series of fourteen poems she examines everything from the earliest bacteria on the globe to the very dandelions beneath our feet. Each subject gets a poem about its life and existence, and then Ms. Sidman provides accompanying non-fiction information about the subject. So in the case of coyotes, the poem "Come with Us!" is told in the voice of the coyotes themselves, urging others to "Come drink in the hot odors, / come parry and mark and pounce." On the opposite page we then learn the Latin term for coyotes, how long they've been on this earth, their size, and any other pertinent information about them. Beckie Prange's linocuts and hand-colored watercolors perfectly offset both the grandeur and the humor of Sidman's work. A Glossary of terms can be found in the back.

Sidman's poems could easily have all been the same format. They could have all had the same ABAB or AABB structure. Instead, they mix things up a bit. Here we can see concrete poems and poems that follow ABAB with AABB. And some, like the squirrel poem "Tail Tale" (which is my favorite in the book) don't even rhyme. This constant change keeps readers interested. Then you start to get into the meat of the poems themselves. Sidman has to be factually accurate while also highlighting the thing about the organism or insect or fish or animal that she finds most interesting. That way her poem's allusions can be more fully discussed in the accompanying non-fiction matter. That aforementioned squirrel poem, for example, manages to capture the essential cockiness of your average tree rodent. Near the end it reads, "hmmmm bigger brains versus tree- / top living with a free fur coat / and the ability to crack any / safe known to man now / really which would / you choose if you / actually had a/ choice which / you don't?" Compare that to a previous and lovely poem about the diatoms of the sea. "Curl of sea- / green wave / alive / with invisible jewels / almost / too beautiful / to eat: / in each / crash, roar, / millions / more." Evocative. Switching gears comes naturally to Ms. Sidman.

Let's also talk structure. I'm a children's librarian and as such I have certain practical concerns. Now this book, insofar as I can tell, was produced without a dust jacket. That is to say, the cover of the book doesn't have anything protecting it. That means that libraries (like my own) aren't going to feel obligated to paste down the bookflaps of the nonexistent jacket and this is a good thing because when you first open the book an image there immediately grabs your eye and requires you to see every last tiny detail. Humans, you see, have a hard time with the concept of time. Children in particular. For a kid, the months between Halloween and Thanksgiving can feel like an eternity. For an adult, they're just a blink of the eye. So how do you go about conveying to a child the notion of how old the Earth is? Well, you do what Prange has done here. You set up a scale where "1 centimeter equals 1 million years", and then fill your pages with kooky crazy meanderings of a line, back and forth, up and down, inside and outside, around and about. Always assuming your kid understands the concept of a million (Steven Kellogg can help them out if they don't) these endpapers have the potential to blow your young `uns minds. Particularly when you see where Bacteria begins versus pretty much everything else.

Prange pairs her pictures together pretty well too. You can see on the endpapers a rollicking red ball that was the early Earth on the one end of the spectrum, and a cool green and blue ball on the other. This is mimicked in the text itself. On the title page is a hot red "Earth, newly formed, 4.6 billion years ago." Flip to the end of the book and there's the Earth again, once more on the left-hand page, opposite the Glossary of terms, now blue and green. It's not something you'd necessarily catch on a first reading, but I like that Prange took the time to give this book a definite structure with a distinct beginning and end.

The relationship between the artist and poet interests me. Let's take as our example the poem that accompanies information on Sharks. Now somebody decided to make the poem a concrete poem. That is to say, it's a poem in the shape of a shark. Was it originally intended to even be a concrete poem or was this an inspiration of Ms. Prange? One has to assume that it was Ms. Sidman's idea since the poem fits perfectly with each part of the shark. The "Finfinfinfin" is the fin. The "bristling teeth" creating the mouth. I bet you could argue both ways. Howsoever you look at it, what's clear is that Prange and Sidman had to collaborate to a certain extent on the melding of text and image. So Sidman would write out the different stages of a dung beetle's life and Prange would create eight separate circles of that same cycle. Sidman labels the parts of an anthill's nest and Prange finds a way of drawing "grasshopper parts". It's a true collaboration. There's a back and forth to this book that you don't always feel in collections of poetry.

Of course all this begs the question of whether or not you consider this book to be a work of poetry or a work of non-fiction. Most will place it in their poetry collections, much as they did with "Song of the Water Boatman", and I think that's right. Still, it's something to bear in mind when folks ask you to recommend a book with facts about ancient and contemporary life forms that seem to be, for lack of a better term, ubiquitous. It's certainly a beautiful book, and will hopefully appeal to kids who are into facts as well as kids who are into poems. The rare double whammy. Hold on to it.

For ages 6-10.
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