12 Fin-tastic Children’s Books

Reading helps children develop their comprehension skills and promotes a furthered understanding and perception of the world as a whole. In honor of National Children’s Book Week, we thought it perfectly fitting to acknowledge just how important it is to discuss our ocean, its resident wildlife and the many things we can do to take care of the sea. These fin-tastic books were chosen for their ability to combine valuable educational lessons and reading practice with an ocean-themed twist, fostering an early appreciation of our ocean for children as they learn.

What’s more: all of these books are available for purchase on Amazon, where you can sign up to participate in AmazonSmile, a program that allows you select Ocean Conservancy as a recipient of a portion of the proceeds from your purchase. Check them out and decide which one you’ll read with the kiddos in your life first!

The Rainbow Fish

By Marcus Pfister

  • An international bestseller, this book easily captures a child’s attention with its lustrous, sparkling foil-stamped illustrations. However, what it’s known for goes far beyond its pictures of beautiful fish. It tells the story of a fish born with several gorgeous scales, who quickly learns that sharing is one of the best ways to make lasting friends, and that there’s much more to life than what we think are our most valued personal possessions.

Somewhere in the Ocean

By Jennifer Ward

somewhere in the ocean
  • This book helps children learn numbers and features a large variety of marine life—including species from octopuses to manatees to clownfish.

Humphrey the Lost Whale: A True Story

By Wendy Tokuda

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  • Based on the true story of a 40-ton humpback whale who accidentally traveled into San Francisco Bay, this book tells of the near month-long journey Humphrey took to find his way home. The book has been a favorite for nearly a quarter of a century, and helps teach children awareness for the largest marine mammals that inhabit our waters.

What if There Were No Sea Otters?

By Suzanne Slade

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  • In this story, children are taught that even though there are millions of species that call our planet home, every single one plays a critical role in their ecosystem. If just one species (such as the sea otter) were lost, the effect on our environment would be huge, showcasing the importance of treating all animals in our world with respect and concern for their wellbeing.

A Swim Through the Sea

By Kristin Joy Pratt

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  • We love that this book was written by a 16-year-old! And, it has been praised by the legendary marine conservationist and explorer Jacques Cousteau. The book moves through an alphabet of sea creatures, providing a full segment of facts and an illustration of each species and their habitat.

I Can Save the Ocean! The Little Green Monster Cleans Up the Beach

By Alison Inches

little green monster
  • This book teaches children the importance of keeping our Earth clean. Telling a story of Max, a little green monster who doesn’t like cleaning up after himself at beach picnics. Max soon discovers on a scuba dive that not picking up trash affects his friends in the sea, and he sets out on a mission to protect our ocean from litter and pollution, while truly understanding what it means to be ‘green.’

Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee

By Chris Van Dusen

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  • This one is an OC Staff pick! Following the fun-filled journey with a character named Mr. Magee and his little dog named Dee, this humorous book tells the story of what happens when a playful whale decides to visit Magee’s boat to say hello. It provides giggles for all, and helps kids learn that the ocean is home to many wonderful animals.

The Emperor’s Egg

By Martin Jenkins

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  • The book highlights how important fathers are to children—especially for Emperor penguins! It’s also an excellent illustration of diversity of roles in parenthood; in this story, the mom goes off and serves as the ‘bread (or fish) winner,’ while the father stands in the freezing cold, keeping the egg warm between his feet for weeks on end. A beautiful recollection of the commitment of papa penguins.

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

By Dr. Seuss

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  • Would our list really be complete without mentioning this legendary book? One of the famed author’s best-selling pieces, this book teaches children the diversity of life in the natural world, while instilling an appreciation for animals even when they look or seem ‘funny’ to us.

My Octopus Arms

By Keith Baker

my octopus arms
  • This is great book for children learning to complete new tasks and activities on their own, like tying their shoes. This book focuses on a friendly octopus who explores all the different things he can do with his eight arms. It also communicates one of the best things children can do with their arms: hugging! It teaches a valuable lesson to kids that they can do anything, but no matter what they do, showing compassion should be at the top of the list.

Simon & Schuster Children’s Guide to Sea Creatures

By Jinny Johnson

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  • We felt it necessary to include at least one ‘guide to the ocean’-style book, and this is one of our favorites. From plankton to penguins and beyond, this book provides full-color pictures paired with fascinating information about the various wildlife that call our ocean home. A wonderful gift idea for a youngster wanting to learn more about the ocean itself and the bounty of wildlife that call her home.

A House for Hermit Crab

By Eric Carle

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  • A classic story about embracing change, A House for Hermit Crab covers the story of a little hermit crab searching for the perfect fitting shell to call his home. But as he continues to grow, he starts to understand that growth isn’t a bad thing, and just because it’s not always comfortable doesn’t mean it won’t help you become who you’re meant to be.

Do you want to help the kids in your life learn more about our ocean? Check out our Wildlife Fact Sheets for some fun and fascinating information about the many species that call our ocean home!


Our work is focused on solving some of the greatest threats facing our ocean today. We bring people, science and policy together to champion innovative solutions and fight for a sustainable ocean.
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