What to Read: Children’s Books About the Ocean

Studying the ocean with your kids? Maybe you’re planning your next family trip to the beach. Either way, you’ll want to add these books about the ocean to your read aloud pile.

Studying the ocean with your kids or planning your next family trip to the beach? Either way, add these books about the ocean to your read aloud pile.

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We live near the Atlantic coast and are constantly looking for new books to help us understand what’s happening near and around the ocean while we walk the shores. That’s where this list of books about the ocean comes into the picture.

Whether you’re looking for fiction or nonfiction, picture books or chapter books, or a mix of these, we know you’ll find several good reading options among this list of our favorites.

Ocean Books for Kids

1. A First Book of the Sea

A First Book of the Sea sounds like an obvious suggestion on this list of children’s books about the ocean, right? With or without that title, it’s one of our favorites because it combines beautiful illustrations with verses and poems about sea life. It’s truly a perfect book to explore with your children over several readings.

2. Ocean Anatomy 

We’ve only had our copy of Julia Rothman’s Ocean Anatomy for a few weeks, but I can already say it contains all the loveliness I expected it to hold.

It explores all things ocean — tides, zones, marine life, ecosystems, etc. — but does so through Julia Rothman’s beautiful artwork and notes.

Note: Ocean Anatomy does include a few evolutionary and “billions of years ago…” references. If that’s a concern for you, you can disregard those references and appreciate the rest of the book with no problems.

3. The Burgess Seashore Book for Children

Want to learn about the ocean a chapter at a time through a classic living book? The Burgess Seashore Book for Children is our go-to ocean book meeting that criteria. It’s written by beloved storyteller Thornton W. Burgess and explores ocean life from the perspective of some curious animal friends.

4. Pagoo

Holling C. Holling’s Pagoo is a classic living book to add to your pile of ocean books. It explores tide pool life by following the story of a resilient hermit crab named Pagurus, or Pagoo for short.

Also worth noting, Holling’s Seabird may also be helpful for learning about the ocean. It doesn’t exclusively deal with the ocean or marine life, but they are woven into the story quite a bit.

5. Secrets of the Seashore

Do you know an Usborne representative? If so, let her know you’d like a copy of Secrets of the Seashore for your little one. Once you have it, you can grab a flashlight and read along to discover the sea life that’s tricky for most of us to see when we walk the shores.

(While the photo below leads to this book on Amazon and you can certainly purchase it there, I’m mentioning Usborne here since it’s from their Shine-a-Light series.) 

PS: If you don’t have an Usborne representative, my friend Kay at Heart to Heart Homeschooling can help you. Learn more through her Usborne page.

6. Following the Coast

If you’ve come across our Ocean Nature Hunt, you know how much we love Jim Arnosky’s Following the Coast. While it doesn’t focus on the ocean itself of the life contained within, it does highlight coastal life from Florida to Delaware.

I include it on this list of ocean books because the others tend to focus on what’s happening in the water itself, but not the ecosystems surrounding the ocean.

7. Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor

Wondering how you’ll work plate tectonics into your time learning about the ocean? If so, Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea is one to read. It’s about Marie Tharp and how her love of maps helped her map our oceans and develop our understanding of continental drift and plate tectonics.

8. Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau

Introduce your kiddos to oceanographer Jacques Cousteau with Manfish. This picture book biography tells his story and highlights his conservation efforts.

9. Shark Lady

My daughter LOVED learning about Eugenie Clark through Shark Lady.

If you’re not familiar with her, she was a zoologist who spent most of her time studying fish and, more specifically, shark behavior. This book tells her story and explains how she became a voice for some of the most misunderstood creatures in our oceans.

10. Save the Ocean (Save the Earth)

Save the Ocean is a great way to inspire conversations about conservation with younger kiddos. In addition to the story itself, it includes facts about ocean conservation and a fun look and find game.

11. Hello Ocean

Want to learn about the ocean with all of your senses? Hello Ocean can help. It looks at a day at the beach and invites kids into the experience through descriptive text and lovely illustrations.

12. The Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor

If you’ve got a Magic School Bus fan, then you’ll want to explore the ocean with Ms. Frizzle and the gang through this Magic School Bus book.

13. The Big Book of the Blue

The Big Book of the Blue is a fun one to have on hand. It’s got gorgeous illustrations and shares information about ocean life in easy-to-read chunks. Because of that, it’s also a good one for curious kids to read alone if they prefer.

If you grab it, be sure to also consider The Big Sticker Book of Blue to go along with your reading. It’s a nice hands-on companion to The Big Book of the Blue.

Worth mentioning, if you enjoy highly visual books like The Big Book of the Blue, be sure to check out Under Water, Under Earth. It’s not exclusively about the ocean, but it does mix ocean-related topics like coral reefs, sea life, and the history of diving in with the other under water explorations.

14. Deep in the Ocean

Your littlest learners don’t have to be left out when learning about the ocean. Deep in the Ocean, a beautiful board book about the ocean, balances visually stunning illustrations with short text, making it a great option for short attention spans.

15. Ocean Seasons

You most likely include seasonal patterns into your homeschool nature study discussions, but if you’re anything like me you don’t usually consider the ocean in those conversations. That’s why Ocean Seasons is one to add to your reading list:

Seasons change in the ocean much as they do on land. Spring brings new plants and baby animals, summer oceans glow with sparkly plankton lights, and autumn winds blow across the open water. In winter the humpback whales migrate to warmer waters, just as some land animals move to warmer climates. The cycle begins again as they return to the northern waters in the spring. In fun, fanciful form, Ocean Seasons introduces plants and animals that are joined through the mix of seasons, food webs, and habitats beneath the waves.


16. Water Beds

Think you can’t learn about ocean life while reading a bedtime story to your kids? Think again. 🙂 Water Beds focuses on ten marine mammals and shows where they spend their active and resting time.

17. Over in the Ocean

Over in the Ocean is a nice picture book option for learning about coral reefs. Ideal for younger kiddos, it’s based on the song “Over in the Meadow” and adds singing, clapping, and counting to the read aloud fun.

If you’d like to add more books about coral reefs to your learning plans, here are a few others to consider: 

18. Science in Seconds at the Beach

I’m including this one here on the end because it’s not an ocean book you’d read with your kids, but it’s still super helpful in helping you learn about the ocean. It includes a ton of easy hands-on learning ideas just for the ocean, making it a great book to have on hand if you live near the coast or during your next beach vacation.

What about you? Do you have favorite ocean books you’d like to share with us? If so, we’d love to hear about them! 

What to Read: Children's Books About the Ocean

Looking for more ocean inspiration to enjoy with your kiddos? We’ve got you covered:

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