Inside: This curated list of ocean animal books for kids includes picture books and nonfiction choices for preschool, kindergarten, and early elementary.
(Disclosure: Books and Giggles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.)
Kids of all ages love to learn about ocean animals! From deep-sea creatures to beach dwellers, the ocean fascinates young children. You can feed that thirst for knowledge with these 14 ocean animal books for kids!
We’ll cover both fiction and nonfiction – all aimed at children ages 2-8.
Related: Your younger students may also like these free printable ocean theme alphabet worksheets:
Okay, now onto the books…
Ocean Animal Picture Books
There are so many wonderful stories about ocean animals for kids! However, many of them simply use the ocean as a creative setting. I created this list of titles that use fiction as a vehicle to teach readers about the ocean and its unique animals.
Deep in the Ocean by Lucie Bruenelliere
This brief book is a visual wonder for young readers of all ages! In this story, a storm blows a submarine off course. We follow the submarine on its adventures every step of the way. This is an excellent book to build observational skills and make connections about where in the ocean different animals live.
Little Turtle and the Changing Sea by Beckie Davies
As Little Turtle returns to the beach to lay her eggs, she notices that the beach has changed. She struggles to find a safe place to nest because the beach is so covered with trash! This picture book introduces the problem of plastic pollution in a gentle way and is a great way to help young readers learn about the importance of caring for the earth around them.
Welcome Home, Whales by Christina Booth
In this award-winning book, a young boy hears the song of a whale in his local bay. He is drawn in by the sound and learns about the whale’s fear of humans. As he shows her he can be trusted, she reveals a special surprise she brought with her to the bay.
Crab Moon by Ruth Horowitz
Horseshoe crabs are one of the most unusual sea animals! Plus, children are fascinated by these prehistoric creatures. One night, a young boy observes a beach full of horseshoe crabs laying their eggs. The next day, they’re all gone except one stuck on its back. Can he save this horseshoe crab? The National Science Teachers Association named this title an Outstanding Science Trade Book, and it will surely be a great fit for your class!
I am Jellyfish by Ruth Paul
In this adventurous tale, a swordfish chases a jellyfish deep into the ocean. As he reaches the darkest depths, he runs into a huge squid who wants to enjoy him for dinner. Who will save him? Well, his former target…the jellyfish! This story offers lessons about ocean animals and appreciating others for being who they are.
How to Hide an Octopus & Other Sea Creatures by Ruth Heller
This story is a classic for a reason! The unusual title will immediately draw kids in, and they’ll also enjoy the pictures of an octopus changing its color to hide from predators. Little learners will love spotting all of the camouflaged animals in this simple book!
Nonfiction Ocean Animal Books for Kids
For this next group of titles, I wanted to look beyond the ‘sea’ of ocean animal books you’ve probably seen before.
Here, you’ll find some of the best collections of facts & stories about ocean animals. Additionally, I also included a fascinating biography of an amazing scientist and several books about understanding and respecting specific ecosystems.
Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating
Eugenie Clark defied expectations and became a world-renowned shark expert. Kids of all ages will be consumed by her story and bravery! This is an excellent text to help teach students about careers in marine biology, fearless women, and the importance of caring for the oceans.
Ocean Animals for Kids: A Junior Scientist’s Guide to Whales, Sharks, and Other Marine Life by Bethanie Hestermann
First, this book covers a wide range of fascinating information written in accessible, kid-friendly language. In addition, it’s ideal for teaching text features like table of contents, maps, diagrams, captions, etc.
This is the sort of book students can come back to again and again to glean more information in a fun, playful way. There are even activities for students to replicate marine conditions in their own homes. Be sure to save this one for your ocean animal unit!
Big Book of the Blue by Yuval Zommer
This book is perfect for the classroom or home library. Each two-page spread answers a question curious kids have likely already asked, like “Is a jellyfish made from jelly?” The gorgeous images and interesting facts make this book a treasure trove of knowledge!
In One Tide Pool: Crabs, Snails and Salty Tails by Anthony Fredericks
Whether you’re starting a unit on marine biology or want to extend your student’s understanding after a trip to the beach, you’ll want to share this book! It’s great for reading lap-to-lap or to the whole class. The rhyming text introduces young readers to the fascinating mysteries of the tide pool.
If You Take Away the Otter by Susannah Buhrman-Deever
Written as a story, this text tells what happened when the otter population started shrinking on the North American Pacific Coast.
Without the otters, the ecosystem started to change for the worse. For example, without the otters to keep their population in check, the sea urchins destroyed a kelp forest. After the laws were changed to ban otter hunting, the otter population rebounded and the balance was restored!
Readers will learn that each animal and plant has a specific role in an ecosystem and that we must strive to keep those systems in balance.
Beneath the Waves: Celebrating the Ocean Through Pictures, Poems, and Stories by Stephanie Drimmer
For kids in Second Grade and beyond, this collection by National Geographic Kids is a must-have! It’s full of photos and fascinating facts. This is the kind of book the ocean enthusiast in your life will want to read under the covers with a flashlight. It’s a beautiful balance of stunning photography, thoughtful poems, and fascinating facts.
Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea by Steve Jenkins
Steve Jenkins is a Caldecott Honor winner who writes and illustrates many of his own books. In this text, readers will descend into the dark bottom of the ocean to learn about the unusual, otherworldly ocean animals in the deep. Packed full of information, this text is great for kids in First Grade and above.
This is the Sea That Feeds Us by Robert F. Baldwin
As students learn about ocean animals, many naturally start to wonder about all the sea animals we eat: shrimp, fish, crabs, and more. This text playfully follows the food chain, starting with the tiniest plankton. This is great for a unit on food chains and ecosystems or to build on your child’s questions about where food comes from!
Finally, take your lessons to the beach! These 20+ beach learning activities will help students learn about ocean life, math, art, and even engineering in the real world. They’re a perfect companion for your new favorite ocean animal books for kids!