Friday, June 18, 2021

We Came Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas 
by Elizabeth Shreeve; illus. by Frann Preston-Gannon
32 pages; ages 6-9
Candlewick, 2021

theme: prehistoric life, evolution, STEM

Life began in the vast empty sea, when Earth was young.

From single-celled microbes to dinosaurs and beyond, this book takes readers on a fantastic journey. First stop: the Edicaran period, 546 to 635 million years ago. Back then, the sea was filled with “strange and squishy creatures.” At the end of that period there was an explosion of diversity. Millions of years passed, through another couple periods and then: fish! insects! mollusks! It is the Devonian period (359-419 million years ago).

What I like about this book: It is wonderful storytelling about life, the universe, and extinction after extinction. And yet, some of those early animals survived to populate the land and change. I love the artwork, too.

This Friday is the start of Cephalopod Week, where folks celebrate cuttlefish, octopuses, and squid, so I had to ask Elizabeth One Question: What is your favorite cephalopod?
Elizabeth: Oh, this is a tough choice but I’ve got to say…ammonites! These amazing mollusks emerged over 400 million years ago, made it through the Permian Extinction 252 million years ago when 96% of marine species disappeared (phew!), and exploded into many different sizes and shapes during the Triassic. Ammonites swam backwards using their tentacles for jet propulsion, a seemingly inefficient technique that kept them zooming around for around 350 million years.

In fact, ammonites (ammonoids) are one of the most successful animals of all time. Over 10,000 different species once inhabited Earth’s oceans, and their distinctive shapes provide important index fossils wherever oceans once existed. Some were shaped like ice cream cones or paper clips, but most were spiral. These were the cinnamon buns of the prehistoric seas! Some even had spikes! Ammonites disappeared in the same extinction that wiped out non-avian dinosaurs 66 million years ago. But their fabulous cephalopod relatives live on, including squid, octopuses, and cuttlefish.

Beyond the Books:

Learn more about the geologic time scale here.  

Check out Elizabeth’s video introducing Out of the Blue and why she wrote it here. She’s made a series of videos about different creatures, from ancient to modern times. You can learn about the many creatures featured in her book at her collection of videos.

Learn more about cephalopods over at the Science Friday website. There are links to virtual tours and even a movie night - all happening over the next few days.

Elizabeth is a member of #STEAMTeam2021. You can find out more about her at her website.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher.


  1. This book is right up my interest alley. But what about nudibranchs and copepods? Don't they deserve their own weeks, too?

  2. Sounds like a super interesting book. I love what Elizabeth had to say about ammonites. Who knew?

  3. What an amazing book. Older kids will really love the information about how life in the seas contributed to our planet.

  4. Sue, I think you and Barbara were on the same wavelength. Two interesting books to read together. Elizabeth did a great job with this book.

  5. This looks like a terrific book. I'm definitely going to check this one out. Thanks for telling me about it.