ocean picture books for preschoolers

Fascinating ocean animals, soft sand in our toes, the sound of the waves crashing against the shore, and oh that ocean breeze. Summer is here and in our house that means it is time to head to the beach!

Truthfully though I pretty much always think it is a good time to head to the beach so I hope even if it isn’t 80 and sunny by you right now that you’ll join us in reading about the Ocean this month for #aReadaDay.

Below I’ve listed some of our absolutely favorite picture books about the ocean to get you started. There are some amazing ones you don’t want to miss if you haven’t read them yet – BUT I also want to hear what you’re reading.

Tag your favorite ocean picture books to #aReadaDay on Instagram to share with us or save them to your comments below. I always love finding and sharing new ones.

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30+ Ocean Picture Book Ideas

1. Read a Book about the Ocean

Atlantic by G. Brian Karas

“I am the Atlantic Ocean” begins this stunning book. It is told from the perspective of the Atlantic Ocean and is teeming with information. What makes this book truly amazing is the illustrations. They brilliantly capture the immense size, the movement, and the varied tones of the Atlantic. 3+

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2. Author Spotlight: Chris Van Dusen

Chris Van Dusen has been a favorite in our house for years and if your kids like silly then I’m sure he’ll be a favorite in yours too. His books inspire big ideas and courage and creativity and a whole lot of giggles. Chris Van Dusen is an author and illustrator of children’s books from Maine. He has a growing collection of books he has written and illustrated, along with some he has illustrated for others. His style is distinctive and once you get to know a few of his books you’ll start noticing his illustrations everywhere.

Read More at: http://www.chrisvandusen.com/


Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee

In this watery adventure, Mr. Magee and his trusty pal dog head to the sea. Their relaxing day by the sea, however turns into a whale sized adventure. This is the first book Chris Van Dusen wrote and illustrated and one of my personal favorites.
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3. Read a Book about Whales

Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue by Robert Burleigh

This stunningly illustrated book is based on a true story of a whale that got stuck in some crab trap ropes off the California coast. This one makes me feel all the feels with its grace and strength, beauty and courage.
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4. Read a Book about Sea Turtles

Sea Turtles by Laura Marsh

We did an entire unit on Sea Turtles so I have a bunch in this category, but one of our favorites is this one. National Geographic just never fails on the amazing photography and fascinating information.
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5. Read a Book about Hermit Crabs

A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle

A House for Hermit Crab is a classic and where we started reading more about hermit crabs, but there were others we loved as well. These are the best books on the subject that we had in our home library and borrowed from the library.
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6. Read a Book about Octopus or Squid

I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry

Full of bright, bold colors and lots of humor this one is just plain fun. If you’re looking for something simply fun to read aloud about the ocean this is a great one to start with.
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7. Read a Book about Pirates

Why pick one when we have a whole basket? My kids think pirates are fascinating and fun so we have a whole bunch of pirate books – See our complete list of favorite pirate picture books here.

8. Read a Book about Boats

Lightship by Brian Floca

You may have never heard of a Lightship – I know I never had until I read this book. It is kind of unforgettable once you read it. I apologize to anyone who has been reading my blogs for a while because I probably way over-share this book but we love it. Truly love it. It’s hard to explain why. Interestingly I was trying to explain why I love lighthouses to someone this week and couldn’t do that either. They’re just cool – and so are lightships.
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9. Author Spotlight: Aaron Blabey

One of our fellow #aReadaDay readers is an Aussie and has introduced me to some awesome Aussie authors. The first one from her list (thanks again girl!) was Aaron Blabey and we LOVE his books. There are SO many good ones. Isn’t finding a new author you love one of the greatest feelings? I feel giddy.

Aaron Blabey is hilarious. At least his books and his website are hilarious so I’m hoping that if I ever meet him in real life I will laugh until my cheeks hurt. We were not able to get all of his books at our local library – I tried – but we got a bunch of them and you can order even more on Amazon.

Read More: Aaron Blabey’s Website

The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabley

He has a bunch of picture books but I picked this one to share because a) big shark = ocean book obviously and b) it was the favorite in our house. There are a few in this series but start at the beginning. It is about a gang of “bad guys” lead by the big bad wolf who is determined to change their image. They (mostly reluctantly) set out an adventure to become heroes. These books tickle the funny bone of my kindergarteners perfectly. They cannot stop giggling and always ask for just one more chapter so we have plowed through all of the books in no time at all.
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10. Read a Book with the Letter S

Secrets of the Seashore by Carron Brown & Alyssa Nassner

This book is part of the Shine-a-Light series from Usborne and it’s wonderful. The pages are designed to reveal a secret when you shine a flashlight behind them. In this particular book, the secret habitats along the seashore are revealed. Starfish, barnacles, small fish and other animals can all be spotted along the shore. This is a fun one to cozy up in a darkened room with a flashlight and read before bed. 2+
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11. Listen to a Book on YouTube

I’m all about reading aloud, but did you also know that you can watch a lot of your favorite books being read aloud on YouTube? Preview a bit of the video before you show your kid because some are much better than others, but start a playlist today of some favorites for an extra way to share kids lit with your kids.

12. Read a Book about Fish

Splotch by Gianna Marino

What happens when your child’s fish dies? This is the premise of Splotch and while the story is pretty predictable, we loved the illustrations. They add the perfect about of humor to a not so humorous premise.
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13. Read a Book about a Shark

Wandering Whale Sharks by Susumu Shingu

Okay, sorry, I know. I’m cheating because this book is not actually about sharks. Did you know whale sharks are actually neither a whale nor a shark? Regardless it is stunning and I wanted to share. The black and brilliant blue illustrations are what captured my eye. Wandering Whale Sharks follows a whale as it swims around the ocean. The book shares simple facts while beautifully capturing the poetic strength of these huge animals. 3+
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14. Read a Rhyming Book

Busy Boats by Tony Mitton

I own 3 copies of this book. I have no idea why, but it is a great book about different kinds of boats for toddlers. Apparently you can borrow one if you’re nearby – otherwise I suggest you buy one….you know, or 3?
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15. Read a Book with the Letter T

Turtle, Turtle, Watch Out! by April Pulley Sayre

We went to a Turtle Center in Georgia and I walked out with an infatuation with sea turtles and this book. Did you know how many obstacles stand in the way of a turtle surviving to adulthood? It’s harrowing. This adventure follows one little turtle and shares the challenges sea turtles face in a child appropriate, inspiring, and action packed way. Most of all I love how it empowers humans to help save sea turtles.
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16. Author Spotlight: Jon Klassen

Jon Klassen has written so many awesome books it is hard to know where to start. He writes. He illustrates. He writes and illustrates.

I was trying to remember the first book I ever read by him and it might have been the one below. It’s certainly my favorite although we’ve amassed quite the collection of Klassen because I have a really hard time resisting when a new one comes out.

Read More: Jon’s Website

This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

This is a story told from the point of view of a very small fish that steals a hat from a very large fish. He explains to the reader his genius plan to get away with this by out running and hiding from the large fish. The words are brief and perfect for a read aloud, but it is their pairing with delightful illustrations that had us laughing out loud.
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17. Read a Book about the Beach

Uh-Oh! by Shutta Crum

Hands down the cutest book I have read all year. This is the perfect toddler picture book about going to the beach.
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18. Read an Opposites Book

Prince and Pirate by Charlotte Gunnufson

Two fish, named Prince and Pirate, could not be more different but they when they are dropped in the same fish tank they have to learn to co-exist. This reminds me of siblings trying to share a room. I adore their solution though. This one is packed with humor.
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Read Also: 20+ Ocean Unit Activity Ideas

19. Read a Book about Seashells

The Seashore Book by Charlotte Zolotow

This beautiful book is actually a re-make of an older book but the illustrations are devine. It’s like a dreamy ocean painting and although not just about seashells they do pop up throughout the book as it follows a mom and her son on an imagined ocean day.
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20. Read a Book with a Blue Spine

21. Read a Book about Something Big

Big Al by Andrew Clements

This one you probably recognize. It is a classic, but as wonderful today as it was when it was published in the 80s. Somethings are just timeless. The story of the big, ugly fish that just wants a friend is one such timeless tale. A must if you haven’t read it already.
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22. Author Spotlight: Aliki

Known only as Aliki, Aliki Brandenberg is an American author that has a host of classic non-fiction books for kids. I feel like every time I search the library or online for a book on a topic the first thing that pops up is {insert perfect book} by Aliki. Every time.

My Visit to the Aquarium by Aliki

First I would just like to say that I want to go to whatever aquarium this is because it is the most incredible one I’ve ever seen. It has everything. The pictures are brilliant and the text is packed with information. We adore this one.
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23. Read a Poem in a Collection

In The Swim by Douglas Florian

Florian is one of my favorite poets for kids. His poems and paintings are quirky and unique. They are best for 5 and up, but once you get to the magic spot where your child gets his humor they are gold.
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24. Read a Book about PenguinsPolar Opposites by Erik Brooks

Alex, a polar bear and Zina, a penguin not only live on opposite sides of the world, but they are opposites in every sense of the world. One is messy. One is neat. One likes to get up early. One gets up late. Even the way they travel is different. However, despite their polar opposites Alex and Zina are best friends and in the end they can “ALWAYS meet in the middle!” This is such a sweet story about embracing differences that talks about opposites, oceans and arctic animals, and friendship. 2+
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25. Read a Book about Something Little

Seahorse Fry by Ruth Owen

There is a whole series called Water Babies about baby ocean animals but this is my daughter’s favorite. This book launched over a week long investigation into seahorses and I have learned so much. This cute little book (about something little but also little itself) is packed with photos and great information about seahorses and in particular the little babies – apparently called Fry.
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26. Read a Non-Fiction Ocean Book

Ocean Animals: Who’s Who in the Deep Blue by Johnna Rizzo

I have raved about National Geographic Kids books in the past but this is my absolute favorite. To be fair, I am a bit ocean obsessed so this is said with some bias but this book is amazing. SO much information. SO many amazing photos. SO many animals included. We have used this constantly in our animal projects.
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27. Read a Book about Polar Bears

Cub’s Big World by Sarah L. Thomson

Cub’s world is small. It was just him and his mom until one day his mom wanders out of the cave. Outside the world is big and bright and full of new things to see. This is such a touching story about the bond between a mother and her baby, about parenting, and about childhood. The perfect book for any mother who wants to reassure their baby that “The world is big. I’ll be close by till you’re big, too.” 2+
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Also Read: 10 Best Polar Bear Picture Books

28. Read a Book about Narwhals

Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima

This is a great book about being different, not fitting in and aren’t the pictures just the cutest?
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29. Author Spotlight: Melissa Sweet

Melissa Sweet is awesome. Her illustrations are so sweet, I know ha ha, but I’m serious. She is a writer and illustrator but it is probably her illustrations you have seen the most. They are full of color and texture and just a gentleness that is somehow powerful.

I am currently reading Some Writer, about E B White – the creator of Charlotte’s Web among others – but she also has many, many extraordinary picture books to fall in love with.

Read More: Melissa’a Website

Listen to Our World by Bill Martin Jr & Michael Sampson

This is one of those powerhouse books when you look at who created it and you’re like WOW and know you have to pick it up. A beautifully illustrated (duh! It’s Melissa Sweet) and excellently crafted read aloud about the animals and their world. If your kids love animals this is an awesome one.
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30. Read a Book at the Beach

Mr Hulot at the Beach by David Merveille

This wordless book is quirky and funny in the best possible way. It’s one of those that I stumbled upon in a bookstore and was intrigued by the illustrations and had to bring home. Mr. Hulot’s day at the beach is unforgettable.

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31. Read a Book about Water

All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon and Katherine Tillotson

Water all over the world. Where it comes from and where it goes. How we use it and how we can protect this dwindling resource. Fantastic non-fiction for little ones.

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30 Best Ocean Picture Books for Preschoolers

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