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7 Swimmingly Good Reads for Kids Who Love Sea Life

by Iva-Marie Palmer

sea life
Image credit: Andrew Holt/Getty Images

You could call it the “Finding Nemo” effect, but that wouldn’t be true; kids have always been fascinated by the world under the sea. Maybe it’s that it looks so different from what’s above ground, or that ocean life is its own rainbow. Or maybe I’m getting too poetic. Maybe my son just loves all things aquatic because he doesn’t yet have permission to go hang out underwater alone. Whatever the case, these 7 books are great for little ones enamored with marine life.

  • Hello, World! Ocean Life

    by Jill McDonald

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    The youngest readers can enjoy the wonders of sea life with this beachy addition to Jill McDonald's Hello, World! series, an engaging set of concept books that introduces babies and toddlers to science, nature, and more. In this lively board book, there are layers of learning to unfold - children can learn the names of creatures, observe their colors, and count their fins and flippers.

    (Ages 0 - 3)

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  • Mister Seahorse

    by Eric Carle

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    Carle, of Very Hungry Caterpillar fame, teaches as he tells stories. In this one, kids learn about the miracle of life from Mr. Seahorse who is responsible for carrying baby seahorse eggs in his belly. As he bobs along, he encounters other undersea daddies who also help out with their babies-to-be. With colorful overlays on each page, it’s an excellent and interactive way to learn about the different lives of animals.

    (Ages 2 - 5)

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  • A Small Blue Whale

    by Beth Ferry and Lisa Mondorff

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    A small blue whale feels lonely and wonders what having a friend might be like. With poetic language and beautiful illustrations, this sweet picture book follows the whale as he refuses to lose hope in his search for friendship. When the whale unexpectedly finds himself in need of help from a group of penguins, he finally discovers what friends are.

    (Ages 3 - 5)

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  • I Am Not a Fish!

    by Peter Raymundo

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    The first thing you need to know about Edgar, the jellyfish at the heart of Peter Raymundo's delightful picture book, is that he is not a fish! As a matter of fact, Edgar's not sure what he is, and it's stressing him out. Our tentacled hero attends an underwater support group, where he makes new friends and learns that labels are pretty silly after all.

    (Ages 3 - 5)

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  • Ocean: A Peek-Through Picture Book

    by Britta Teckentrup

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    Author-illustrator Britta Teckentrup's peek-through picture books (also including Tree, Moon, and Bee) are fun for the whole family. Each turn of the page reveals enchanting cut-out details of marine life, and the rhyming text is perfect for growing readers learning to follow along. From hermit crabs to Nemo lookalikes to enormous humpback whales, there's something to love for everyone.

    (Ages 3 - 7)

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  • I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean

    by Kevin Sherry

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    In a quite funny style, a giant squid takes inventory of every creature in the ocean, eager to brag how he’s the biggest thing in it. However, he maaaaay be overlooking a sea animal bigger than him. Kids will enjoy the surprise of the larger animal lurking about, even if they don’t quite yet understand the concept of hubris that’s at play here.

    (Ages 4 - 8)

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  • The Mermaid

    by Jan Brett

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    Bestselling author Jan Brett puts an aquatic spin on a favorite fairy tale. When a young mermaid happens upon a beautiful seashell house, she's charmed to find three breakfasts, thee chairs, and three gently rocking beds. Sound familiar? Of course, bears don't live under the sea - but the Octopus family does, and they're not thrilled to find their home topsy-turvy. Mesmerizing and intricate (there's a whole story in the border art!), The Mermaid is sure to be a reader favorite.

    (Ages 4 - 8)

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This article was originally published in 2015, and updated in July 2019.