Marine life is fascinating and kids will love these nonfiction books that teach them about the amazing way the oceans and its creatures contribute to the health of our planet. This list of nonfiction books about the oceans and seas is an addendum to my list of nonfiction earth science books for kids so check that one out, too!
On this list of children's ocean books I've included a variety of topics, like individual sea animals, general knowledge books, biographies, saving the oceans, and there is even a comic book that teaches kids with a fun science fiction narrative! (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
Ocean: Secrets of the Deep by Sabrina Weiss. I adore this comprehensive look at the oceans. Full of facts about everything: animals, ecosystems, maps and environmental concerns, this is a book to treasure and explore. I love the illustrations and easy to read layout. Definitely get this one!
National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of the Ocean by Catherine Hughes. Any book in the National Geographic Kids collection is fabulous and my kids loved these "First Big Books" on various topics when they were preschoolers. The best part of this book is that is grows with your child. Preschoolers can learn from the simple facts and bold photographs, but older kids will enjoy delving deeper with the fact "blurbs."
Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem by Patricia Newman. Growing up on coastal California, I have a huge soft spot for sea otters. I just love the little fellows! This informational book looks at events at Elkhorn Slough in Monterey and how the otters play a key part in the ecosystem. Great photographs, easy to read text and an engaging layout make this Robert F. Sibert Informational Honor Book a true gem.
The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World's Coral Reefs by Kate Messner. This award-winning book is gorgeously illustrated and tells the interesting history of conservation efforts to rebuild the coral reefs. The narrative focuses on the biography of Ken Nedimyer, starting when he was a boy and filled with wonder for the oceans. As an environmental scientist, he became concerned with the state of the coral reefs and began to experiment with creating new coral colonies. An endnote includes further resources and vocabulary.
Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A Nivola. Explorers are not just mountain climbers and sea farers! This book starts out with the quiet "investigations" of a girl watching a pond. When her family moves to Florida, she starts her investigations of the Gulf of Mexico. Earle's love for the ocean and its life drift off the page, and this is a surprisingly moving book with detailed illustrations to explore. It's a wonderful book to start a conversation with your kids about how explorations of new territory can inspire us to take care of the environment.
Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas by Molly Bang and Polly Chisholm. This is a lovely book for kids to learn how different environmental systems "feed" off each other. The narration is occasionally poetic and explains how solar energy supports ocean and marine life. The authors have several other books in their Sunlight series, which teach all the different ways that the sun impacts our planet besides keeping us warm on a summer day.
How to Survive as a Shark by Kristen Foote. This is a fun, entertaining take on the nonfiction genre. A teacher shark, complete with pirate get-up, shows the young sharks the ropes, and thus teaches the reader all about sharks! Includes photos, a glossary as well as lots of facts! This type of nonfiction narrative is particularly fun as a read aloud, so dive in!
Coral Reefs: A Journey Through an Aquatic World Full of Wonder by Jason Chin. In this beautifully illustrated picture book, a girl in the New York Public Library starts reading about the ocean only to find herself swept away on an adventure of scientific discovery. I love the use of narrative fantasy elements in a nonfiction book, which captures the imagination of kids who might not always want to just read facts-facts-facts!
Sea Horse: The Shyest Fish in the Sea by Chris Butterworth. When I was a kid I was a little obsessed with the tiny sea horse. They seemed so magical to me. John Lawrence's illustrations from wood cuts and engravings perfectly capture that magic. This is a lovely book and suitable for preschoolers, too.
Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles by Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson. I like to include stories of activism when reading nonfiction. They can show kids how one person, or a small group of people can make a big difference. This list of ocean books includes several titles that teach kids about the interconnectedness of ecosystems which lays the foundation for understanding what a big deal it is that a group of kids were able to help "a bunch a turtles."
Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion by Loree Griffin Burns. I've mentioned before how much I love the Scientists in the Field series. Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer turns trash into scientific data to help him understand the currents and health of the oceans. Readers will see photographs of how once familiar objects like LEGO, toothbrushes and toys become trash that hurts the environment. Definitely look for other ocean-themed books in this stellar series.
Mad Scientist Academy: The Ocean Disaster by Matthew McElligott. More over Ms Frizzle, Dr. Cosmic is here to take his students on a crazy, science fiction, madcap adventure under the ocean. Engage reluctant readers with this comic book/graphic novel series that tackles a variety of scientific subjects.
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