One of my favorite things about the arrival of summer is pulling out my big box of beach books and activities. Some of my absolute favorite books center around the ocean (I’m looking at you, Flotsam and Hello, Lighthouse!), and ocean-themed sensory bins and sandpaper artwork are just the best. So, before we get too deep into summer, I wanted to share our favorite beach books. Take a look below, reserve them from the library (or use my Affiliate links to purchase if you love them, too!), and let me know which books you love!
Our Current Favorite Beach Books
Poke-A-Dot Who’s In the Ocean? by Innovative Kids– This one is bound to be a hit with your toddlers and preschoolers! An interactive, rhyming, counting book that also introduces young children to various sea animals, I guarantee you’ll read this one repeatedly for a handful of summers! Publishers recommend for ages 3-6, but you can absolutely go younger.
Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef by Marianne Berkes, illustrated by Jeanette Canyon– Based on the classic Over in the Meadow, Berkes has created a counting book (this one also rhymes) that introduces young readers to ocean animals and their families. She also includes 6 pages of information at the end, including the tune and lyrics to the song “Over in the Ocean,” facts about coral reefs, and particulars about the animals featured in the story. Berkes also has a whole page dedicated to “Tips from the Artist,” which is definitely worth checking out, as Canyon did all of these illustrations using polymer clay! So cool!!! Over in the Ocean has also been released as an educational app. Publishers recommend for ages 4-8, but you can definitely go younger here, too.
Commotion in the Ocean by Giles Andreae, illustrated by David Wojtowycz– Though it must be noted that Commotion in the Ocean doesn’t necessarily teach readers factual information about the ocean animals featured (yes, crabs walk sideways and turtles bury their eggs in the sand, but I’m not sure octopuses love their tentacles because it helps them to tickle their kids…), but it’s a delight to read aloud and will have your children giggling throughout. In our house, it also helped our girls get excited about the ocean and some of the animals found in it, which has opened the door to more in-depth research and learning. That’s a win in my book! Publishers recommend for ages 3-6.
Hello, Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall– the Caldecott Medal winner in 2019, it goes without saying that these illustrations are breath-taking. From the shape of the book (tall and thin like a lighthouse) to the intricate details of the ocean, you’ll want to take time with this one. I initially assumed this one be one of those books that I loved but my girls wouldn’t be interested in, and at first, this was the case. But, a few days later, one of them picked it up again, and after that it was on repeat until we had to return it to the library! My kindergartener even put this on her book fair wish list at school, a wish I was happy to fulfill! Publishers recommend for ages 5-8, but our 3.5-year-old also loves this one.
Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima– The tale of Kelp, a unicorn born in the ocean, is a delightful story about accepting differences and embracing others into groups. I appreciate that rather than simply accepting his life as a unicorn, Kelp finds a way to lean into what he likes about both narwhals and unicorns and happily moves between both groups. Publishers recommend for ages 4-8, but the length is perfect for younger unicorn lovers as well.
The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Sheffler– I am admittedly late to the game to discover this book, though we’ve long been fans of the duo’s The Gruffalo. We ordered this through one of my kindergartener’s Scholastic Book Orders this spring based solely on the author and illustrator, and it’s been a huge hit in our house. On the surface, this is a book about friendship, home, and exploration, but one can take it to a deeper level with the subtle environmental messaging included in the story. Publishers recommend for ages 3-7.
A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle– Young readers will likely identify with how the hermit crab in this story feels, as many are familiar with outgrowing clothes (or even feel that their bed/bedroom/house has gotten to small as they’ve grown!). In fact, they’ll have so much fun with this surface level story that they may not even realize how much they’re learning about hermit crabs and other sea-floor creatures. Publishers recommend for all ages.
There Might Be Lobsters by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Laurel Molk– This one is new to us this summer, but my girls get a huge kick out of the fact that the main character is a dog, and the dog is absolutely terrified of just about everything at the beach. Do you have a child afraid of the ocean? A few summers ago, our oldest was so scared of the ocean that she cried (from the porch of the rental house, which was as close as she’d get) whenever anyone in the family went into the ocean. Eventually, Sukie the dog does manage to go into the ocean and realizes it’s not as bad as she thinks, but she still prefers to enjoy the beach from the safety of the towel. I really appreciate that Crimi doesn’t wrap this book up neatly with a dog who falls in love with the beach, as a slow appreciation of how fun the sand and ocean can be is much more in line with many children’s journeys. This one’s also fun to read aloud, as Sukie is a bit of a drama queen, and that’s always fun to voice! Publishers recommend for ages 3-7.
The Seashore Book by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Wendell Minor– How would you describe the seashore to someone who hasn’t ever been there? I personally think I’d get lost trying to describe sea and sand in a way that even remotely transports a newbie to the shore, but Zolotow has a way of making magic happen. This one’s a wonderful read (and with beautiful illustrations, too) for both seashore veterans and novices. Originally published in 1992, this was rereleased in 2017. Publishers recommend for ages 3-8.
Hello Ocean by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Mark Astrella– This one is similar to The Seashore Book in that Ryan works wonders with words to make her readers feel as though they are soending a day with the girl and her family at the beach. There’s no need to say more now, because I wrote a whole post about Hello Ocean a few weeks ago! Publishers recommend for ages 3-6.
Flotsam by David Wiesner– I could write A LOT here about this beautiful wordless picture book, but lucky for you, I’ve got a whole post on it. Be sure to check out my recommendation of Flotsam here. Publishers recommend for ages 5-8.
How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk, illustrated by Sara Palacios– Do your kiddos love to build sandcastles? Or are they interested in coding? Mine love sandcastles, and while they don’t have any idea what coding means, I think this is a really interesting, engaging introduction! Funk and Palacios worked with the computer science nonprofit Girls Who Code to create this book and introduce children to coding in a fun, bright manner, which is achieved through both the text and the illustrations. Publishers recommend for ages 4-8.
Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark by Heather Lang, illustrated by Jordi Solano– I really wanted to include some nonfiction on our beach- and ocean-themed bookshelf, but quite honestly, I don’t love a ton of nonfiction books about the ocean. So many of them are overwhelming to both my girls and me, packed full of so much information that it’s hard to even know where to start! But, we do love this biography of Eugenie Clark (I must admit I hadn’t heard of her before reading this book…). Genie, aka “Shark Lady,” was the first person to study sharks in their natural habitat. This book is full of information about her life and her work. The illustrations include little drawings of notebook paper with notes Genie might have made during her observations of sharks, which add neat tidbits to the information we get from the story itself. Lang also includes an Author’s Note about Genie and a “More about Sharks” page. Publishers recommend for ages 4-8, but I think you could go older as well.
Do you need more ideas for summer reading? Be sure to check out my list of 90 books for 90 days of summer (you may see some familiar titles from the list above!)– click here to see the titles and download a printable list for your convenience!
What are your favorite picture books about the beach or ocean?