Children's Books on the Ocean Habitat / Ecosystem
best picture books for K-8

This page lists books on the marine / ocean habitat, including coral reefs. Our planet is 70% water, so this is certainly a habitat/ecosystem that deserves our attention and understanding. More people have set foot on the moon than have visited the deepest area of the ocean (the Mariana Trench). That's amazing. In recent years, scientists have made fascinating discoveries of bizarre deep ocean creatures. There's so much we still have to learn about this 'last great frontier', and I think interjecting some of that mystery into your lessons on the ocean habitat will spark students' natural curiosity.

-- For books on other ecosystems, see the Ecosystems section on the Science page (here).

Sea Feeds
This is the Sea that Feeds Us
by Robert Baldwin

A lighthearted exploration of interdependence within the ocean habitat and why society needs to protect it "Calling all elementary school teachers! This is the book to use to introduce ecosystems." (Sci.Bk)

Reading Levels: 
Interest Level-- PreK-Gr.2   Difficulty Level-- age 4-8

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Here Is The Coral Reef
Here Is the Coral Reef
by Madeleine Dunphy

A beautifully illustrated cumulative tale about the interdependent plants/animals in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Vibrant acrylic paintings "will grab and hold the attention of young viewers." (SLJ)

Rdg Levels:  Interest--K-Gr. 2   Difficulty--age 4-8

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Somewhere in the Ocean
Somewhere in the Ocean
by Jennifer Ward

Set to the tune of 'Over in the Meadow', this fun title features a variety of plants and animals that live in the ocean (crabs, sharks, jellyfish, manatees, sea turtles...) The illustrations are "graceful of line and glowing with color" (Booklist) and will wow children and hold their attention. Five pages of 'fun facts' about the animals featured is included at the end.

Reading Levels:
Interest Level-- K-Gr.3    Difficulty Level-- age 4-8

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What's It Like to Be a Fish
What's It Like to Be a Fish?
(Let's Read and Find Out Science series)

Summary: This introductory title focuses on pet goldfish to teach how fish feed, breathe, swim, and rest in water. Large, clear, labeled pictures and a simple text cover a range of fish topics.  

Rdg Levels:  Interest--K-Gr.3     Difficulty--age 4-8

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by David Wiesner

This Caldecott Medal book is definitely NOT scientific, but it could be fun to use in ocean units, perhaps when discussing the unexplored depths. This wildly imaginative look at the mysteries of the deep will certainly get them thinking.

Rdg Levels:  Interest K-Gr.4    Difficulty age 4-8

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Hidden Forest
The Hidden Forest
by Jeannie Baker

A picture book for older children, full of "vibrantly colorful and amazingly detailed collages" (SLJ) of a unique ocean habitat--the kelp forest. In the story, a boy and his friend dive into the ocean to get a trapped fishing net, and there they discover the 'mysterious, hidden world' of the kelp forest. Illustrations incorporate materials like "seaweed, sponges, and sand to luminous effect." (Booklist)

Interest Level--Gr. 1-3     Difficulty Level--age 4-8

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Down, Down, Down
Down Down Down
A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea

Journey 'down, down, down', from the surface of the ocean to the deepest point on the ocean floor--the Mariana Trench. En route, discover amazing sea creatures rarely seen--like jellyfish that flash bright neon lights or giant sea squids that are longer than your school bus!  Perfect for read-alouds and for fascinating individual, 'up close' examinations.

Reading Levels:
Interest Level-- K-Gr.3     Difficulty Level--age 4-8

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In a Small Square books -- Coral Reef and Seashore
One Small Square: Coral Reef  -and-
One Small Square: Seashore

These two titles in the One Small Square series are both appealing, intricately illustrated invitations to see all the living things that live in just one small area of a coral reef (One Small Square--Coral Reef) or seashore (One Small Square--Seashore).

In addition to information about the habitats, both books provide directions on how to measure off a 24-inch square, look under the water with a home- made viewer, and conduct and record observations. Picture glossaries, field guides, and resource lists round out these books that Science Books and Films called "science education at its best."

Interest Level-- Gr. 2-5    Difficulty Level--age 4-8

More on One Small Square--Coral Reef/Seashore
A Journey into the Ocean
A Journey into the Ocean
(Biomes of North America series)

This entry in the Biomes of North America series covers the distinguishing features of the marine / ocean habitat, including the the interconnections of the plants and animals that live there. As with all books in the series, it is illustrated with black-and- white drawings and crisp color photographs.

Reading Levels:
Interest Level-- Gr. 3-6    Difficulty Level--age 9-12

More details on this book coming soon

Ocean by Dinwiddie
The World's Last Wilderness Revealed

If you are looking for the best reference book on the ocean for older students, this is it! Bookpage called this book "...the definitive reference for the entire family" and Good Morning America called it "...the ultimate informational book on the ocean."  It's not written specifically for this age group, but we've included it because there are no similar titles that come close, and the reading level is not challenging.

Reading Levels:
Interest Level--Gr. 7+    Difficulty Level--adult

Click for more: Ocean--World's Last Wilderness

Do you know of a good book on the ocean habitat / ecosystem?  If so, please let us know by completing the Suggest a Book form, located in the top right hand column.

 -- We have books on other habitats too. To see book lists for those habitats, click below:

Desert Books
Forest Habitats
Pond books
Grassland books
Arctic books
Biome books
Desert Habitat Forest Habitat Pond Habitat Grassland Habitat Arctic Habitat Habitats in General

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