Happy Earth Day 2021! Today, I am featuring 12 incredible picture books on our Earth’s oceans and sea creatures. From fabulous rhyming fiction picture books with environmental themes, to exquisitely illustrated lift-the-flap non-fiction guides. Plus, I’ll be rounding off with a 2-foot-wide panoramic sea life book!
The twelve books I am showcasing today all celebrate our Earth’s wonderful oceans and seas, the creatures within them and what we can do to protect them.
Clean Up! by Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola
There is absolutely no way I could write a post on oceans without including Rocket’s latest adventure. In this sequel to Look Up!, Rocket travels to a Caribbean island to visit her grandparents. Unsurprisingly, Rocket’s grandparents are as cool as her; when they’re not at their animal sanctuary, Grammy can be found surfing waves. Dapo’s illustrations are packed with authentic characterisation and humour, as well as heart-felt moments showing the devastation of plastic pollution.
As Rocket explores the beaches, she finds a baby turtle caught up in plastic. In true Rocket style, she learns all she can about the plastic pollution problem and then make sure to tell everyone. But she doesn’t stop there. Rocket and her friend Teresa have a plan. It is impossible not to feel inspired after reading Clean Up!. My daughter and I love the ocean facts Rocket shares throughout the book and we cannot wait to read Rocket’s next adventure.
Published by Penguin, 23 July 2020
Setsuko and the Song of the Sea by Fiona Barker and Howard Gray
Next up, is another fiction picture book with an environmental message. I’m particularly delighted to feature Setsuko and the Song of the Sea because today is its publication day! One day, when Setsuko is swimming far out at sea, she meets an enormous whale. Setsuko can relate to the whales feeling’s of loneliness and they bond over their shared love of the sea. My daughter really liked seeing Setsuko and the whale playing together, particularly making rainbows in sea spray!
Setsuko gives the whale the confidence to go in search of other whales. As a parting gift, the whale teaches Setsuko the song of the sea. She makes it her own and teaches it to her human friends on land. Can she help the world rekindle their love of the oceans? Howard’s illustrations are beautiful and include Japanese text which is a lovely touch. In many illustrations my daughter spotted plastic in the ocean. This book is a call to all of us to consider how we can better protect our oceans. 10% of the net profits from each book will be donated to the Marine Conservation Society, the UK charity working for seas full of life.
Published by Tiny Tree, 22 April 2021.
Above and Below: Sea and Shore by Harriet Evans and Hannah Bailey
This landscape picture book is one of the most ingenious non-fiction books I’ve ever seen. In between each spread is a half-page. The split page first appears like a complete ocean scene, but when you lift up the half-page, underneath reveals a hidden part of the aquatic world. On the back of those half-page flaps are mini bios of the ocean creatures found in that specific location.
It’s really hard to pick a favourite page in this book because we loved them all! We always love pages on coral reefs, but perhaps the star of the show was the polar ocean. Lifting the flap revealed info on narwhals, lion’s mane jellyfish as well as polar bears. Above and Below: Sea and Shore is clever, beautiful, and filled with wonderful sea facts. I can’t recommend this book highly enough!
Published by 360 Degrees, Little Tiger Press, 4 March 2021
Blue Planet II by Leisa Stewart-Sharpe and Emily Dove with a foreword from David Attenborough
Watching David Attenborough documentaries is a staple in our family. We particularly loved Blue Planet II because of our daughter’s fascination with fish and the ocean. So, when I heard that Penguin were producing a book for children on the series, I was giddy with excitement. But never could I have imagined just how incredible this book would be.
Leisa has woven quirky facts with exceptional story-telling that takes this book to another level. We adore the entire book, but our favourite parts were definitely the “stories” pages. Leisa’s playful language makes the book a joy to read. My daughter particularly liked the Stories from the Coral Reefs, and learning about the green turtles. One of the things that made the Blue Planet II TV series so brilliant was the incredible camera work. Emily’s illustrations have absolutely done the TV series justice – we were in awe of her beautiful, vibrant artwork throughout the book. This is a must-read for anyone who enjoys learning about life in our planet’s oceans.
Published by Penguin, 5 November 2020
Creature Features: Ocean by Big Picture Press, illustrated by Natasha Durley
Now, there are board books, and then there are brilliant-bonkers-out-of-this-world board books. I am a HUGE fan of Big Picture Press books. They are BIG! And this board book is no exception, at larger than A4 size it would appeal to much older children than the typical age of board books. My almost-four-year-old adores this book, as do I and my one-year old is just obsessed with the vibrant contrasting colours in Natasha’s illustrations.
Rather than categorising the ocean creatures by habitat or species, this book has gone for the categories that really matter: funny faces, spectacularly spotty, terrific teeth and snazzy spikes to name just a few. This breath-taking and refreshing ocean creature board book, is one we will cherish for years to come.
Published by Big Picture Press; Illustrated edition (23 Mar. 2021)
Turtle Rescue: A Wild Adventure to Save Our Sea Life by Xuan Le and Jonny Marx
Let me start by saying, if you are a fan of turtles, like my daughter, this is an absolute must-buy. If you are currently indifferent to turtles (how?!) this book will convert you into a turtle-superfan. It’s hard to do this book justice through photographs, because each page is packed with so much content, ingenious layouts and exquisite illustrations, that you really need to see this book for yourself to fully appreciate its beauty.
The book begins right on the title page, where we are introduced to marine biologist, Flora, an inventor who is afraid of water called Fauna, and adorable baby Bud who has just learnt to say jellyfish. On the busy first spread, we discover what’s been going on at the beach in The Tempestuous Times. Soon, Fauna, Flora and Bud set off in The Friend-ship sail boat to learn about turtles in the reef. There is a fabulous page from Fauna’s notebook full of turtle facts. But the real joy of this book is when we reach the reef. The spread folds out to reveal a stunning four-page-wide illustration of the reef. It is truly spectacular. We continue to learn more about the ocean, but then an enormous storm threatens the exploration. Will they make it back to safety? We were all on the edge of our seats!
Published by Little Tiger Press, 1 April 2021
Meet the Oceans by Caryl Hart and Bethan Woollvin
I knew we were going to love this book from the moment I heard about it. Caryl creates such wonderful rhyming picture books and Bethan’s illustrations are always a pure delight. Combine that, with the fact this is an ocean-themed book and we were all jumping up and down with excitement! And wow, this book did not disappoint.
I am in awe of how Caryl has packed so many ocean facts into the bouncing rhymes. Caryl and Bethan take us on an underwater adventure in our very own submarine to discover the secrets of the Earth’s oceans and seas. Each page we explore a different ocean and meet the creatures that call it home. We also see how harmful plastic is to the ocean and that made Little E very sad and ask what we could do to make sure it doesn’t happen anymore. This beautifully-illustrated, fast-paced, fact-filled picture book is a must-have for any sea-loving picture book reader.
Published by Bloomsbury, 4 March 2021
Sea: A World Beneath the Waves by Patricia Hegarty and Britta Teckentrup
Many of the books I’ve shared in this feature are quite full-on, but this rhyming board book is beautiful for the youngest readers and also makes a lovely bed time read. With beautiful fish cut-outs throughout, we discover the magic and mystery of the ocean and coral reef. Britta’s illustrations are playful and she uses different colour palettes on each spread which really keeps each page feeling unique and fresh.
My three-year old loves this one, because it has gentle, soothing rhymes and wonderful cut out sections that spark her curiosity. My one-year-old also loves this book, it’s a good length for her, and small enough she can hold it herself. Plus, she loves to put her fingers through the holes! Sea: A World Beneath the Waves would make a lovely gift.
Published by Little Tiger Press, 13 May 2021
The Tale of the Whale by Karen Swann and Padmacandra
Where land becomes sky and the sky becomes sea, a child spots a whale and a beautiful friendship is born. The whale and the child go on a magical journey across the sea. The child sees the world from the whale’s perspective, and they explore the beauty of the world together. The whale and the child dance with dolphins and fly over polar ice-caps. But although the whale and the child smile, they also cry. For when the whale opens its mouth, it swallows half an ocean’s worth of plastic. The child realises plastic pollution that is destroying the whale’s home.
Karen’s lyrical words and Padmacandra’s magical illustrations captivated us from start to finish. The Tale of the Whale is a masterful debut with exquisite illustrations. At the core of this heart-felt story of friendship, is a powerful reminder of every person’s individual responsibility to protect our planet from plastic pollution.
Published by Scallywag Press, 4 March 2021
Small Worlds: Water by Lily Murray and Lara Hawthorne
This book isn’t just about the Earth’s oceans and seas, but it is all about the small watery natural habitats on Earth. From rock pools and Irish peat bogs, to waterholes and the leaf pools. Each page has lots and lots of lift-up flaps with additional facts to discover. So much detail has gone into both the words and illustrations in this book.
With my three-year-old, we read the page overview and talked about the different wildlife we could see. But this book would definitely appeal to older children too (age 4-7) as there are lots of complex facts to expand learning. Lara’s illustrations are beautiful and each page offers a new wonder to explore.
Published by Big Picture Press, 1 October 2020
I am a Fish by Isabel Otter and Fernando Martín
It’s hard to describe how excited my daughter was, whilst reading I am a Fish. She was utterly captivated by this exquisitely illustrated guide to our Earth’s fish, that is narrated by a fish!
This book was pitched just right for an inquisitive almost-four-year-old. Some pages had one cool fact and a brilliant illustration, while others posed an interesting question with several quirky facts. We loved learning about where fish live and particularly liked seeing the fish swim in groups.
Published by Caterpillar Books, Little Tiger Press, 4 March 2021
The Sea: Panoramic Giant: The Sea by Veronique Sarano, Anine Bosenberg and Loris F. Alessandria
I knew when this “book” arrived, that it had to be the closing act of my Earth Day post on ocean-themed books. I have never seen anything like it. This poster-book completely unfolds on itself to reveal a gigantic panoramic scene of the sea.
It features a vast range of sea creatures, from scorpion fish to sperm whales; and different habitats, from the seaside to the abyss. On the back of the poster are lots of facts about the ocean that children can work their way through. We used this as a background to put on our toy fish and created our own ocean stories. This is perfect for buddy oceanographers and marine biologists!
Published by Schiffer Publishing, 28 April 2021
I am very grateful to the publishers for providing me with a complimentary copies of these books. This voluntary feature contains my honest opinion.