Feeling landlocked? Can’t get to the beach? These 5 books, a mix of old and new titles, bring oceans of fun to young landlubbers. In the process, they also sneak in some learning too! For more beach-theme titles, check out my previous post on Top 10 Beach Reads for Little Kids.
Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea by Steve Jenkins (ages 6 to 8). Using clever cut-paper collages, Jenkins takes readers on a remarkable journey to the deepest, darkest depths of the Pacific Ocean (nearly 36,000 feet). As you turn the page, a paragraph or two explains what it’s like at that section of the sea and the depth is indicated by a black bar that runs down the side of the right-hand page. Along the way, we meet animals that inhabit that particular level of the ocean, from jellyfish to sea turtles to giant squid, sperm whales and even more exotic creatures. This is a fascinating read for not only junior Jacques Cousteaus-in-the-making but also anyone who is curious about the many strange and wonderful creatures that inhabit our watery planet.
Happy by Mies Van Hout (ages 2-5). Each spread features a drawing of a fish on one page and on the opposite, a word that describe an emotion, such as curious, nervous, and shy. How are the two connected? Viewers will quickly catch on to the fact that the expression on the fish reflects the emotion described on the opposite page. It’s amazing how much expression exudes from fish drawn in neon-bright scribbles against a black background that mimic chalk drawings on blackboard. Terror can be seen in the eyes of the “afraid” fish. The “shocked” fish, with his gaping mouth and prickly skin, look like he’s truly witnessed something horrifying. The tiny “brave” fish fearlessly swims up a large expanse of black space. The fish depicted here may not be real, but the emotions are. What a creative, entertaining way to help young children name and talk about their feelings!
A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle (ages 4 to 8). Be it hungry caterpillars or humble crabs, Carle is a master at bringing the tiniest creatures to life for young audiences. In this tale, a hermit crab outgrows his shell and must find a new one. Hesitant at first and anxious about the change, the crab finally finds a new home. Little by little, over the course of a year, he decorates his shell with other friendly sea creatures that clean, protect, and camouflage his home. As always, Carle’s colorful signature collages are beautiful to look and sure to hold the interest of the youngest readers. The last page contains extra factual information about the sea creatures featured in the story. If you like this book, don’t forget Carle’s Mister Seahorse, about a seahorse dad and other fish fathers that are responsible for taking care of their offspring.
The Octonauts & the Great Ghost Reef by Meomi (ages 4 to 8). Kids don’t have to be familiar with the Disney Jr. show Octonauts to enjoy the books that inspired the TV series. The Octonauts are adorable anime-style critters, who explore the seas and go on missions saving all sorts of marine creatures in distress. In The Octonauts & the Great Ghost Reef, Captain Barnacles (a polar bear) and his crew (which include a penguin, bunny, otter, cat, dog, and octopus) are looking forward to their vacation in the Great Reef City, but when they get there they find that the reef now looks like a pale ghost town. To help the residents, the Octonauts set out to solve the mystery of the sickly looking coral reef. While poring over the details in the cute, colorful illustrations, kids will soak up fascinating facts about coral reefs and the importance of taking care of natural habitats. Stay tuned: A new Octonauts book by Meomi (the creative team of Vicki Wong and Michael Murphy) is expected to be released this fall!
Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems by Kate Coombs, illustrated by Meilo So (ages 5 and up). In the very first poem, “Song of the Boat,” readers are encouraged to “push away from the stillness of the nut-brown land.” Those who take up Coombs’ invitation to enjoy this thoughtful collection of poems celebrating the mercurial ocean and its treasures won’t be sorry. Poems about waves, sea turtles, jellyfish, driftwood, tide pools, and more—some only three lines long, others taking up a page—are full of descriptions that linger and tickle the imagination. For example, seagulls are ever-hungry beagles that attain sudden dignity when they take wing, the shark “slides through the water/ like a rumor, like a sneer,” and when an octopus squirts ink, “he autographs the water/ with a single word—/ good-bye.” This is a great choice for reading out loud with your young beach-lover. So’s evocative watercolors, perfectly capturing the beauty of the sea, make this book a delight for the eye as well as the imagination.
What other sea- or beach-theme books do you recommend for children?
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Sandra Lee Rella, mother of two budding bookworms, is a freelance editor and writer, and a former children’s book review editor.
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