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Growing Reader

Under the Sea: 9 Books for Little Ocean Enthusiasts and Conservationists

by Jennifer Garry

Background credit: Anastasy_helter/Shutterstock

Summertime often means visits to the beach. Like everything with kids, going to the beach can lead to lots of questions.

“Is seaweed a weed?”
“Do jellyfish have brains?”
“Why would someone throw their garbage in the ocean?”

If you don’t have all of the answers (and, honestly, even if you do), this collection of books will inspire and delight ocean enthusiasts while creating conservationists in the process. From fictional tales that get young readers thinking about tackling ocean pollution to underwater adventures that introduce them to new sea creatures and habitats, these books provide an excellent overview of aquatic ecosystems and the importance of protecting them.

  • Saving American Beach

    by Heidi Tyline King, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

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    When acclaimed opera singer and beach lover MaVynee Betsch was little and living in the Jim Crow south, most of the beaches nearby were for whites only. Frustrated, her grandfather bought a beach that Black families could enjoy, drawing in artists like Zora Neale Hurston and Ray Charles. But after public places were desegregated, MaVynee’s beloved American Beach slowly fell apart. Determined to save the place that meant so much to her family and countless others, MaVynee became an activist and conservationist. This colorful picture book biography tells her little-known story.

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  • What a Waste

    by Jess French

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    With playful illustrations and simple, easy-to-digest facts, What a Waste tackles pollution, the trash island in the Pacific Ocean, innovative ways to repurpose waste, and green projects happening worldwide. This book is a great way to arm our youngest ecologists with facts and inspiration to make a difference.

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  • The Sea Book

    by Charlotte Milner

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    Get ready to explore the seas — from outer space to the depths of the ocean! Readers will learn about sea animals, their habitats (from ice to underwater forests), and how humans damage the seas. The engaging illustrations celebrate the ocean, while the thoughtful layout helps avoid information overload. It’s a great starter book on ocean conservation that won’t lead to fear or nightmares about the state of our environment.

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  • Fish

    by DK and Brendan Kearney

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    This sweet story of a fisherman and his dog will pull little readers in while teaching about ocean pollution and offering a way to help combat it. Finn and Skip go out on their boat to catch dinner, but all they find is garbage. Finn starts to collect it, and the pair end up with a vessel full of stuff — but no fish! Back at home, Finn finds ways to reuse and recycle the things he found in the ocean and invites his friends to help clean up the beach. Eventually, with Finn’s help, the sea is clean again, and marine life comes back.

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  • Water Cycles

    by DK

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    Perfect for little scientists, this book gives an in-depth look at the water cycle — how it's essential for life, how we use it, and how we can protect the world's supply of fresh water. Using a combination of illustrations and photographs, Water Cycles showcases essential information while making sure its relevance feels very real.

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  • I’m Getting a Shark!

    by Brady Smith

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    A shark-obsessed girl is positive she’s getting a shark for her birthday. Her dog, Ralphie, is not so convinced. As she starts dreaming up great big what-ifs, Ralphie keeps her in check with shark facts that she ignores. When her birthday arrives, and the girl learns her parents adopted a shark in her name, she’s disappointed until she realizes she saved a shark — and then she starts spouting shark facts that sound suspiciously familiar to Ralphie.

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  • The Octopus Escapes

    by Maile Meloy, illustrated by Felicita Sala

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    The octopus loves his little cave and the ocean and sea creatures outside his door. But one day, he gets captured and brought to an aquarium. Every day is the same in his new glass home: the same humans watching him, the same sad sharks, the same food that’s too easy to catch. Unhappy with his new life, the octopus decides to escape and makes the long trek back to his cave.

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  • Coral Reefs in Danger

    by Samantha Brooke, illustrated by Peter Bull

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    In typical Step Into Reading fashion, this book turns the story of coral reefs into a straightforward, engaging narrative that young readers will enjoy. They’ll learn about what coral is, where it grows, how you can see the Great Barrier Reef from space, and why coral reefs are in danger.

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  • Earth’s Incredible Oceans

    by Jess French, illustrated by Claire McElfatrick

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    This book takes readers on an in-depth underwater adventure, detailing all sorts of life under the sea. From sharks and jellyfish to seagrass meadows and ancient sea dwellers, this book is full of incredible facts destined to create ocean enthusiasts and conservationists.

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