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!
*Affiliate links used. Most age ranges are publishers’ recommendations, but always remember that you know your child best!
Our Current Favorite Beach Books
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. All ages.
The Big Big Sea by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Jennifer Eachus — Less a book about the ocean and more about mother-daughter bonding and memory-making, we see a mother bring her daughter on a night walk to the nearby sea. The daughter behaves as we would hope any child would on a special trip to the ocean, but the mother is always nearby, sharing her experiences and still keeping her safe. And Waddell’s descriptive writing, combined with Eachus’s illustrations, transport you on this night journey right there with the main characters. Ages 2-7.
Deep in the Ocean by Lucie Brunellière — Though this one is technically a board book, it’s oversize stature and immaculate detail mean that older children will also love spending hours pouring over these illustrations, searching for sea life they know, and finding new creatures to learn more about. Thanks to the publisher, Abrams, you can also find a downloadable soundtrack on their website, which allows young readers to hear sounds found in these underwater habitats. Ages 3-5, but can easily go older too.
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! Ages 3-6, but you can absolutely go younger.
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! Ages 3-6.
Hello Ocean by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Mark Astrella — One of my favorite books about the ocean, 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! Ages 3-6.
Sandy Feet! Whose Feet? Footprints at the Shore by Susan Wood, illustrated by Steliyana Doneva — At first glance, you might not think this book to have much substance, but Wood and Doneva have filled these pages with information about various animals’ feet and the footprints they leave behind in the sand. After reading this, your child will likely find motivation to study footprints in the sand more thoroughly on his next beach trip, too! Though the main characters here present with brown skin, all people are illustrated with a variety of skin tones and hair textures. Ages 3-7.
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 one year 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. Ages 3-7.
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! Ages 3-7.
Beach Feet by Kiyomi Konagaya, illustrated by Masamitsu Saito — I hadn’t really stopped to think about it before, but after reading Beach Feet, I realized the extreme extent that going to the beach is a sensory experience for one’s feet! From hot, burning sand to cool, wet sand, from sharp shells to slippery sunscreen, your feet might experience it all within a matter of minutes. Konagaya and Saito offer a unique lens through which to experience a child’s trip to the beach. “A quietly sublime depiction of a child at play by the sea.” (Kirkus Reviews). Ages 3-7.
This Beach is Loud! by Samantha Cotterill — This Beach is Loud! is a terrific title for any children who ever feel overwhelmed by experiences they had initially been incredibly excited for. The boy can’t wait to go to the beach, but when he gets there, he realizes it’s busy, and loud, and sandy, and hot… The father is able to help him and his overwhelmed senses with a neat strategy that might help other children in moments of overwhelm, sensory issues or not. 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. Ages 3-8.
The Big Book of the Blue by Yuval Zommer — You might remember how much we love Zommer’s The Big Book of Bugs, so I was thrilled to add The Big Book of the Blue to our collection this summer. And it did not disappoint! For those kids who just love to look at beautiful illustrations of animals and have their research curiosity itch scratched with small tidbits of information, this one’s the book for you! Ages 4 and up.
The Little Blue Cottage by Kelly Jordan, illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle — We’ve read this one over and over and over again since receiving it a few weeks ago; my girls just can’t get enough! This is a beautifully illustrated story of a girl who spends her summer, every summer, in the same little blue cottage by the sea. Though the girl is the main character, the cottage is a valuable secondary character, experiencing feelings of loss and loneliness when all of the sudden, the girl doesn’t show up for the summer any more. Never to fear, though, everything wraps up nicely in the end! Worth noting that the main characters in the book comprise 2 multiracial families (the main character’s childhood family and married family). Ages 4-6, but terrific slightly older as well.
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. Ages 4-8, but you can definitely go younger here, too.
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. Ages 4-8.
The Mess That We Made by Michelle Lord, illustrated by Julia Blattman — It’s hard to make an ocean list without including at least one environmental book, and this one is one of my favorites! Written in easy-to-read rhythm and rhyme reminiscent of “The House that Jack Built” and full of interesting details in the illustrations, Lord and Blattman have partnered to bring us a terrific one! You can read my full review here. Ages 4-8.
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. Ages 4-8, but the length is perfect for younger unicorn lovers as well.
Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark by Heather Lang, illustrated by Jordi Solano — We 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. Ages 4-8, but I think you could go older as well.
Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating, illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns — Though I’ve loved Swimming with Sharks for a while, our older daughter received Shark Lady from our school library as a birthday book when she turned 7, and I knew immediately that it needed to be on my list too! Yes, it means Eugenie makes my list twice, but the two books have very different feels to them. Shark Lady is, in my opinion, a little more accessible for younger children AND provides some interesting insight into sharks themselves. You’re going to want to check out the “Shark Bites,” “Eugenie Clark Time Line,” and “Author’s Note” pages at the end. Ages 4-8.
Hum and Swish by Matt Myers — Have you ever interrupted someone’s creative flow by asking “What are you making?” Jamie knows all too well what that interruption feels like. She’s just trying to spend some time with her friend, the sea, and build something, but everyone keeps asking questions about what she’s making. Then, a painter sets up close to Jamie, and their creative connection is instant. Ages 4-8.
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! Ages 5-8, but our 3.5-year-old also loves this one.
The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs by Kate Messner, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe — I have to admit that most of the picture book biographies that I buy tell the stories of people (or their inventions) with whom I am familiar… The Brilliant Deep is not one of those! I could not have told you one thing about Ken Nedimyer before picking up this book, but I have always loved coral reefs (for a very long time growing up, I thought I was going to be a marine biologist…), and Forsythe’s illustrations caught my eye here. I am so glad we found this story of Nedimyer’s life and the innovative ways he is helpoing to rebuild coral reefs around the world. Ages 8-12, but great for younger children used to heavier reads, too.
DK Smithsonian’s Ocean: A Visual Encyclopedia — And for those children just dying to learn fact after fact about the ocean and it’s animal and plant life, then this visual encyclopedia is the one for them! Beautifully photographed and full of ocean facts, I myself could spend hours with this one. In fact, I’m a little sorry we didn’t lug it on our beach vacation this summer, to have as a resource for the many, many questions arising about the ocean and its inhabitants! Ages 8-12.
What are your favorite picture books about the beach or ocean?