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.
  • 1, 2, 3 Who’s Cleaning the Sea?, by Janina Rossiter—another counting story, focusing on pollution and the need to protect the ocean.
  • Star of the Sea: A Day in the Life of a Starfish, by Janet Halfmann—a cute story about a starfish on the hunt for food.
  • In One Tidepool, by Anthony Fredericks –a fun story about exploring along the coast.
  • Surprising Sharks: Read and Wonder, by Nicola Davies—a fun introduction to dozens of different shark species.
  • 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.
  • Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenia Clark Becamethe Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist, by Jess Keating, illustrated by Marta Alvirez Miguens—a true story, and a fascinating one too!
  • Flying Deep: Climb Inside Deep-Sea Submersible Alvin, by Michelle Cusolito, illustrated by Nicole Wong—a tag-along adventure with a deep sea science exploration.
  • 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.

picture books about ocean exploration

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

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