Deep-Sea Reading: Our Favorite Picture Books about the Ocean

Over the past year, I’ve been binge reading ocean-themed picture books. There are so many fascinating animals and ecosystem to learn about—after a year of reading about them, I still feel that we're just skimming the surface. This week, though, I finally organized a list with some recommendations.

So, here are over 20 fabulous picture books for you to check out this year!

picture books about marine animals

The list is arranged roughly in age order, with books for older readers at the end. The links are to Goodreads:

  • I’ll Follow the Moon, by Stephanie Lisa Tara, illustrated by Lee Edward Fodi—a lovely picture book about a baby turtle hatching and finding his way back to the sea.
  • Octopuses: One to Ten, by Ellen Jackson—a cool counting story with tons of extra information about octopuses.
  • In One Tidepool, by Anthony Fredericks –a fun story about exploring along the coast.
  • Coral Reefs, by Jason Chin—a fantastic underwater adventure that begins when a girl opens a library book and dives into the world of coral reefs.
  • The Brilliant Deep, by Kate Messner, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe—an amazing story of one man’s efforts to protect and rebuild coral reefs.
  • Gentle Giant Octopus, by Karen Wallace—the story of a mother octopus finding a den and caring for her eggs until they hatch. (Note: female octopuses usually die soon after their eggs hatch, which hinted at in this book.)
  • Humphrey the Lost Whale, by Wendy Tokuda and Richard Hall, illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama—a classic about a whale lost in San Francisco Bay. This is one I read growing up!
  • Dolphin Baby, by Nicola Davies—a lovely story describing the couple years of a baby dolphin’s life.
  • Here Is the Coral Reef, by Madeleine Dunphy, illustrated by Tom Leonard—a marine variation on the House that Jack Built style of cumulative poem, showing how the connections between all the different animals living in a coral reef.
  • A is for Algae, by Jillian Freese—a neat variation on the classic alphabet book, using the scientific names for 26 different species of algae.
  • A to Z in the Deep, by Paulina Berry—another awesome alphabet book, featuring a wide range of incredible creatures.
  • Seashells: More than a Home, by Melissa Stewart—a really fun contrast-and-compare picture book about seashells by one of our favorite nonfiction authors.
  • Whale Trails, Now and Before, by Lesa Cline-Ransom—a neat comparison story showing the history of whaling alongside a modern-day whale watching adventure.
  • Giant Squid, by Candace Fleming—an intriguing look at these mysterious deep-sea dwellers.
  • Otis and Will Discover the Deep, by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Katherine Roy—a fascinating biography / adventure story about two of the first submarine explorers.
  • The Big Book of the Blue, by Yuval Zommer—an incredible collection of ocean animals with fun facts about each of them.
  • Sea Turtles: Wildlife Books for Children, by Tristan Walters—a great introduction to sea turtles, including an explanation of what a sea turtle is, what their habits are, and what sorts of dangers they face.

picture books about ocean exploration

These books are also good read-alouds, but work better for older children or independent readers:

  • Secrets of the Sea, by Kate Baker—a beautiful collection of ocean animals, from fish to starfish and plankton. This book is set up somewhat like an encyclopedia.
  • Project Seahorse, by Pamela Turner—definitely a book for older readers, with more in depth information about sea horses, the dangers they face and the ways a community is working to protect them.

a first book of the sea

And finally, this one isn’t a story, but a lively poetry collection: A First Book of the Sea, by Nicola Davies. This is the third book by Nicola Davies on my list, but we’ve read many of these authors’ books on other topics as well!

Which ocean books would you recommend for me to read?

a collection of picture books about the ocean


UPDATE 11/10/2020: 

If you like this activity, check out my science-themed coloring & activity book, Shrimp, Shrimp, Cuttlefish! This book focuses on more than 30 ocean animals with coloring pages and activities like the one in this post. You can find a sample coloring page from the book here

Shrimp, Shrimp, Cuttlefish is available on Amazon, or you can get it here.