Out of the Blue


With climate change a force in every species’ existence, it is important to realise the evolution of life on Earth.

Elizabeth Shreeve tracks back to the start in Out of the Blue, when tiny microorganisms fed on each other. As oxygen levels increased, so did their forms so that they became sponges and jellyfish. Thereafter, arthropods and mollusks, echinoderms and annelid worms evolved. Yet it was when millipedes were washed to the shore that a fuller evolution of life began.

As they fed on shoreline, creating mollusk forests, fish grew backbones in the water, and land snails fed on the land Thereafter fish grew bigger and travelled into rivers and streams where they ‘wiggled onto muddy banks‘ and gulped air.

Frann Preston- Gannon offers pictures that suggest ages past alongside technical drawings, such as the development of gills to ‘jaws, ears and throats’.

Alongside the descriptions, Elizabeth Shreve runs a timeline across the double pages that we can have some sense of history. Thereafter, we realise how we have morphed into our Cenozoic Era, alongside considering what may be to come.

Out of the Blue is a thought-provoking, informative and thorough non-fiction picture book of the evolution of our planet that we recommend highly.

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Out of the Blue

How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas

Elizabeth Shreeve, illustrated by Frann Preston- Gannon

(Walker Books)– hardback

Out of the Blue begins with tiny microbes that changed to produce oxygen. This meant they could grow, become competitive and evolve into creatures like jellyfish or sponges. ‘Higher oxygen levels‘ fuelled life so that more complex animals took shape. Thereafter annelid worms, or echinoderms like sea stars and sea urchins or arthropods and mollusks, were formed.
Yet it was when the first arthropods, likely millipedes, came to land, that life changed unequivocally. The land was invaded when they learned how to breathe and found food above the waterline. What’s more other species joined them and developed ashore, from scorpions to ‘spiders, ticks and mites’. This meant an eruption of life, from the emergence of insects, to newer mollusks, like snails that ‘developed lungs to breathe air’. ‘These creatures are ancestors of today’s clams, octopuses and squid’. Thereafterwe read of the Devonian period, when fish evolved. Their backbones meant that unlike their predecessors, they could move fast! Yet what happens as the climate changes so that there is ‘less oxygen in the oceans and more in the air’!
Elizabeth Shreeve recounts the evolution of life from sea to shore meticulously. It seems that this book’s style, with its scientific explanations and timelines, is highly accessible and able to be realised. We understand that breathing on land was a huge step. Thereafter, we see the  balance shift in the Jurassic period, before burrows of safety protect early mammals when ‘an asteroid hits Earth’ eradicating all large animals. The illustrations from Frann Preston-Gannon suggest a movement of time, a creeping wonder of new discoveries.
Bookwagon recommends Out of the Blue to keen, enquiring readers. It is an ideal companion to Darwin’s Rival or I Used to Be a Fish.


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