The ocean is fascinating, terrifying, and full of wonder. Seaside stories have long been a staple of children’s literature, with the ocean either as a threat, a resource, or a place to explore. Child readers often love ocean creatures or tales of days at the beach, and there are plenty of books to feed their seafaring imaginations. In this rundown of ocean books for kids, you can find shoals of sea creatures and enough ocean facts to fill the Mariana Trench.
Picture Book Ocean Books For Kids
Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry and Juana Martinez-Neal
In this cute and funny picture book, the grumpy Captain Swashby is initially annoyed by his new neighbours, who’ve disrupted his peaceful life by the sea. He starts leaving messages in the sand, telling them to leave, but the sea edits the messages, and slowly Swashby begins to realise that company isn’t so bad after all.
Wave by Suzy Lee
In this beautifully illustrated, text-free book, Lee tells the story of a young girl visiting the beach. Wave is a wonderful book for children and carers to look through together, and a great prompt for conversation about the beach, the ocean, and all the fun you can have there.
Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle
While Eric Carle is most famous for The Very Hungry Caterpillar, he has plenty of other picture books to his name. Mister Seahorse is an underrated treasure, exploring the reproductive cycle of seahorses and other ocean creatures.
A Beach Tail by Karen Lynn Williams and Floyd Cooper
In this sweet seaside story, Gregory gets into trouble with a creative interpretation of his father’s instructions not to stray too far from the lion he’s drawn in the sand. On his journey, Gregory discovers a whole host of beach animals and scenes.
The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story by Tina Cho and Jess X Snow
This lovely ocean story explores the bond between a little girl and her grandmother. Dayeon’s grandmother is a haenyeo, a freediver who gathers treasure from the ocean floor. Dayeon aspires to be just like her, but first must overcome her fear of the sea.
Chapter Book Ocean Books For Kids
The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler
The first book in an acclaimed series, this story follows Emily, who has grown up on a boat but has never been allowed in the sea. When she takes swimming lessons at school, she realises why – when she’s submerged in water, she turns into a mermaid. After discovering her powers, Emily begins to explore the underwater world.
Song of the Dolphin Boy by Elizabeth Laird
Exploring friendship, fitting in, and the problem of plastic pollution, Song of the Dolphin follows Finn, who discovers that he feels completely at home when swimming with dolphins. Finn discovers that his new friends are in danger from the plastic waste produced by a local supermarket, and has to bring his community together to help the ocean wildlife.
Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre
In this funny, silly story by author and illustrator team Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre, Oliver has to find his missing explorer parents. He’s helped along the way by a group of new friends – a mermaid, an albatross, and a sentient island called Cliff.
Sam Wu is NOT Afraid of Sharks! By Katie Tsang and Kevin Tsang
Sam Wu has a lot of fears that he tries to grapple with, and sharks happen to be the latest. Unfortunately, his friend’s birthday party is coming up, and it’s going to be held at the beach. This funny story will help kids explore their own fears, and give them plenty of laughs along the way.
Nonfiction Ocean Books For Kids
Who Would Win? Killer Whale vs. Great White Shark by Jerry Pallotta and Rob Bolster
This book from Scholastic is part of an exciting series on hypothetical showdowns between different creatures. This one focuses on two giants of the ocean, and is packed full of interesting information for children who want to learn more about these two famous sea creatures.
Eyewitness Ocean by DK
DK bring their usual mix of beautiful illustrations and fascinating information together in this full, comprehensive look at ocean life. Young oceanographers will learn hundreds of new fascinating facts while browsing through this visual encyclopedia.
The Sea Mammal Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta and Tom Leonard
A nonfiction book for younger readers, this picture book takes kids through a shoal of ocean creatures in a gorgeously illustrated alphabet story. Full of facts and fascinating pictures, this will become a firm favourite.
Shark Lady by Jess Keating and Marta Álvarez Miguéns
Telling the true story of Eugenie Clark, this book is an inspiring read, particularly for young girls who love science. Eugenie Clark, known as “the Shark Lady,” stood up against sexism (and anti-shark sentiment) to become a leading world authority on these amazing creatures.
Whether the young reader in your life loves sharks and dolphins, dreams of swimming with mermaids, or is a little hesitant to get in the water, these ocean books for kids will spark their imagination and teach them about the mysterious underwater world that takes up such a huge part of our planet.