When it comes to ocean study, it seems there are endless books for all ages. We recently did a literature based unit study featuring Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly. This book gave us so many opportunities to learn more about whales, sound, poetry, ships, and of course, all things ocean.
I had fun finding books to help us explore these topics and more for the various ages of my kids. I feel like having this vast array of books for the kids to explore added quite a bit of depth to our unit study. Be sure to check out this post with all the details of our unit study including free lesson plans.
Books in bold were our favorites.
- Sounds All Around (Let’s Read and Find Out) – We spent some time learning about they physics of sound in this unit. This book was a fantastic addition for my younger kids and made the science accessible to them.
- A Whale in the Bathtub – A fun story about a little boy who doesn’t like taking baths. This time, he really can’t take a bath because there is a whale in his bathtub.
- Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue – Follow the true story of a trapped whale who was rescued by divers.
- Big Blue – When I started reading this story I had one child snuggled up to me. By the end all three children plus my husband were engrossed. It’s about a little girl who’s mom is a marine biologist. More than anything the girl wants to see a blue whale and she may have finally gotten her chance!
- If I Were a Whale – This is a simple book but a really great and fun introduction to all different kinds of whales. It’s especially good for the really little crowd, but can be enjoyed by elementary age students as well.
- Water Sings Blue – If you’re looking for ocean themed poetry, this is a great option.
- Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille – My kids absolutely loved this telling of the story of Louis Braille. The text isn’t sparse, but even my three-year-old was eagerly paying attention.
- The Heart of a Whale – In this story a whale loves to sing to cheer others up, but he wants to find another whale like himself. All the ocean animals carry his song until it reaches another whale. Will she join him so they can sing together?
- There Might Be Lobsters – If you have a child who struggles with fear and anxiety, this is a great book to read. The dog in the story is afraid of going to the beach. He thinks of all the things that might go wrong and THERE MIGHT BE LOBSTERS! Before long something unexpected happens that makes him forget all about his worries and fears and he realizes that things could just be really good too.
- Inky the Octopus – This one is so fun. It’s based on the true story of an octopus who escaped from an aquarium in New Zealand. The writing style is fun and witty and all of my children fell in love with Inky.
- Flotsam – If you have the budget for it, this wordless picture book is one that may be worth owning. A boy finds a very old waterproof camera on the beach. When he develops the film, he discovers some truly remarkable things. My kids spent a long time pouring over this one.
- The Blue Whale – I have to say this might be one of the cleverest non-fiction books I’ve seen. The engaging non-fiction text is full of fantastic information about Blue Whales, and the illustrations are like a story of their own in which the little boy is learning all the same things about Blue Whales that the reader is learning. This one’s a must read.
- Deep in the Ocean – If you’re looking for an immersive experience, this is a great book. The highly detailed illustrations are accompanied by a fantastic ambient soundtrack you can access via the website on the back cover. As you hunt for animals and objects in the scene you become lost in these different underwater scapes.
- The Ocean Calls – This tells of the henyeo women in Kora who dive off the coast of to find treasures in the ocean. It’s a tradition and a deep part of their culture.
- Show Us Where You Live Humpback – The little girl wants to learn all about Humpback whales. As she and her mother go about their day they find ways that the relationship between a Humpback mama and her little one are similar to the relationship between the little girl and her mom.
- How to Hide an Octopus – One of my favorites from childhood, this is a fun hide and seek story where little ones can learn all about animal camouflage under the water.
- Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas – From the sun to the plants that grow in the water all the way to great big sea giants, this is the story of the great food web of the ocean.
- The Rainbow Fish – Rainbow Fish has sparkling scales that set him apart from the rest of the fish. He’s so much more beautiful and special than him that he can’t possibly play with them, or share any of his beauty. However, he’s also lonely. In this story Rainbow Fish learns that sharing with friends is the best solution.
Text Heavy Picture Books
- Whales: The Gentle Giants (Step into Reading) – If you’re looking for an easy read informational book about books, this is a great choice.
- Under the Sea (Usborne Beginners) – True to Usborne Beginners this is full of wonderful photographs and illustration paired with small pieces of information. It’s not overwhelming for new readers or even the littlest learners.
- We Travel So Far . . . – Many animals migrate over long distances. They don’t all migrate in the same way or in the same reason, but they all have a reason to travel so far. Read some of their stories in this beautifully illustrated book. Each two page spread tells about the migration patterns and motivations for one type of animal.
- Ocean Anatomy – If you have kids who love art or are curious about parts of things, this is a fantastic resource to keep on your shelf. Julia Rothman truly explores the anatomy of things under the ocean and on the shore. You can also pick up a companion workbook to extend learning here.
- Encyclopedia of Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises – If you’re learning more about whales this is a must have for your shelf. It’s filled with beautiful photographs and illustrations covering everything from whale behavior, to anatomy, to identification. This makes a wonderful addition for your kids to flip through while you read aloud, as an art guide (there are illustrations of whale species in the back), or as a non-fiction spine.
- Usborne First Encyclopedia of Seas & Oceans – I’m so sad that this book is no longer in print. You can still find it used pretty easily though. This has been a staple in our house any time the kids are interested in ocean adventures (which is quite often).
- Ocean (DK Eyewitness) – The copy I have is out of print, but DK has been releasing some updated titles that are even better. This is exactly what you would expect from a DK Eyewitness book about the ocean.
Early Chapter Books
- The Wild Whale Watch (Magic School Bus Early Chapter Books) – Join Mrs. Frizzle and the class as they head out on a whale of an adventure to learn all about these ocean giants.
- Edison: The Mystery of the Missing Mouse Treasure – We love this book series and this underwater adventure was no exception. The whole family crowds around to look at the beautiful pictures. In this book Edison is looking for his family’s missing mouse treasure. When he pinpoints the location he has to build a vehicle that can get him safely to the bottom of the ocean where the treasure lies.
- Escape this Book: Titanic – I’m not sure if this is more of an activity book or a graphic novel, but I figured this was the best fit. When you open this book you have a choice of three different paths to take. You have choices to make along the way and things to draw to help write the story. Where will your path lead?
- Whales (Science Comics) – This was hands down my kids’ favorite book of the whole unit. Follow along as zip records a podcast for the aliens (humans) studying him. During his research and recording he learns about all kinds of whales from the farthest reaches of the oceans. This book does include a fair amount of information about evolution. If that bothers you, I’d skip this one.
- History Smashers: Titanic – My oldest (11) absolutely loved this book. It sparked an interest in the Titanic and a whole rabbit trail of adventures. I love the unique approach to history that author Kate Messner takes with this book. You get a chance to see all the stories and rumors that have circulated about the titanic over the years along with what we actually know happened (and even what we aren’t sure about). It’s super engaging and a lot of fun.
- Narwhals and Other Whales (Magic Treehouse Fact Finders) – I don’t have the companion Magic Tree House Book (Narwhal on a Sunny Night) but my kids are usually pretty interested in the non-fiction companions. We didn’t get a chance to read this book before returning it to the library, but it looked really good so I included it on this list.
Have you read any of these books? What are your favorites? Are there any great books I forgot to add? Leave a comment below so none of us miss any great resources!
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