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Oceans & Seas Topic (KS2)

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Oceans and Seas Topic Booklist

Welcome to the Blue Abyss topic! Spanning aspects of Geography and Science, the topic of oceans and seas is a popular one in primary schools. At KS2, children learn about the physical features of the sea, layers of the ocean, sea explorers, ocean habitats, marine wildlife and the theme of pollution. From whales and whelks to shipwrecks and sharks, we’ve got the topic covered with our curated collection of the best children’s books about oceans and seas.

NB: This booklist is aimed at KS2 (ages 7-11). If you are looking for KS1 or EYFS books about the sea, we have a separate booklist here.

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Books about sea creatures

Owen Davey
This is a high-quality non-fiction text that explores the topic of sharks in a stylish and visually appealing way. Learn all about these fascinating and sometimes misunderstood creatures, with topics including habitats, food chains, classification and mythology. With images that appeal to all ages and text that is most suitable for KS2, this is a winner for all primary school libraries.
Emily Hawkins
 & Lucy Letherland

Atlas of Ocean Adventures is an oversized hardback with immersive illustrations that showcase the natural wonders and marine marvels from different oceans of the world. Each impressive double-page spread features a different sea creature in its natural habitat, including a range of fish, marine birds and larger mammals. Maps, illustrations, captions and text boxes work together to build a picture of the incredible diversity of ocean life around the world.

Andy Seed
 & Nick East

A hilarious books of animal interviews with underwater creatures, from ocean giants like blue whales and orcas to deep-sea dwellers like anglerfish and conger eels. The interviewer quizzes his oceanic guests on life in the deep blue sea – from what they eat and how they swim, to dangers they face and where their names come from. True to style, Andy Seed packs a lot of humour into the interviews and the creatures’ personalities shine through hilariously. The Q&A format breaks the information into bite-size chunks, making it a brilliant choice of book for readers to dip into at their leisure and to find some interesting facts to take away each time they do. With lively colour illustrations by Nick East, this is a highly enjoyable information book that will be sure to make a splash with readers in lower KS2.

Michael Morpurgo
 & Christian Birmingham
Chapter book
This short, illustrated chapter book (84 pages) is a fictional account of the day a whale swam up the Thames, in which the whale makes an environmental plea to the boy who first sees him. At sunrise, young Michael spots a whale on the shores of the Thames and thinks he must be dreaming. But the creature is real and it has a message for him – one that only an open-minded child can deliver to the rest of the world. The whale warns that the earth's days are numbered and that humans must put right the damage they are doing, but how can Michael fulfil his promise to tell others when neither his teacher nor his classmates will believe his story? Within hours, the city and the wider world have learned of London's remarkable visitor, and all eyes are on the whale's struggle against the receding tide. Michael must now join his new friend in a race against time to reach the ocean, and hold fast to his promise in the race to save the world itself.
Jess Keating
 & Marta Alvarez Miguens
This is the inspiring story of real-life scientist Eugenie Clark, who loved sharks so much from a young age that she became determined to study them and show the world how wonderful the creatures actually are. Written by a zoologist, this is a great story representing girls who follow their aspirations in STEM careers.

Zoe Armstrong
 & Anja Susanj
Did you know that under the sea, deep in the forest, and out in the desert there are creatures that make light all by themselves? The Earth is full of curious creatures that really do glow in the dark. From fireflies and sea turtles to puffins (yes, puffins!), scorpions and squirrels, this beautifully illustrated non-fiction picture book reveals a hidden world of amazing glowing animals. How do they glow? And what is the brightest creature of all? Read on to find out all sorts of fascinating facts about these incredible creatures. Children will discover how and why these creatures glow, and explore how humans have tried to harness their dazzling skills. A perfect book for children with a curiosity to learn more about the wonderful animals we share our planet with.

Chapter books about oceans and seas

Hannah Gold
 & Levi Pinfold
Chapter book

A highly-recommended story with themes of family bonds, parental mental health and marine conservation. The story centres around a connection between an eleven-year-old boy, Rio, and a beautiful grey whale. The tale highlights the topic of environmental sustainability but also draws a picture of the wonderful connection that can develop between children and animals, placing hope and empowerment in the hands of the young to make a difference in the planet’s future.

Thomas Taylor
Chapter book

A hugely popular sea themed mystery laced with monstrous humour. Welcome to Eerie-on-Sea, a seaside setting with its own legend of the mysterious sea creature called the Malamander. Young friends Herbie and Violet find themselves on a whirlwind of a coastal adventure steeped in imagination and eccentric humour, involving a book dispensary, a mermonkey, a Boathook Man and a flotsamporium shop. Can Herbie and Violet put together all the pieces of the puzzle before it is too late?

Malamander mixes scary parts, mysterious parts and whimsically funny parts too, as Thomas Taylor creates an original fantasy mash-up with a nautical twist that will no doubt be enjoyed by readers across KS2 classrooms. I enjoyed the quirky humour and wordplay, the imaginative characters and the galloping pace of the unravelling mystery that is edged with peril throughout. A teachers’ resource pack is available to download from the publisher.

Nicola Davies
 & Nicola Kinnear
Chapter book
Washed up on Turtle Island as a toddler, Ariki has always felt different from the other children. But there's somewhere she belongs heart and soul: the sea, where she plays with dolphins, sharks, whales and turtles. One day Ariki catches sight of a strange creature in the water, bigger than any she's seen before - soon after, an enormous shark tooth is found on the sand. When a group of giant sharks start circling the shore, the island's fishermen are too afraid to go out to sea. Without fish the people will starve... Can Ariki save the day? An atmospheric chapter book enjoyed by lower KS2.
Elizabeth Laird
 & Peter Bailey
Chapter book

This story from award-winning author Elizabeth Laird is a great choice for KS2. When young Finn takes a dive in the water near his fishing village, he is delighted to find dolphins to swim with. However, the dolphins face a terrible threat due to the masses of rubbish floating around in their water. It is up to Finn to find a way to save the sea creatures and prevent their natural environment from becoming ruined. This is a topical and thought-provoking novel.

Tania Unsworth
Chapter book

Stella Martin can remember how happy everything seemed at home before her mother died but now she feels increasingly alone and isolated. When a new girl called Cam arrives, Stella is happy to enjoy a blossoming friendship.

Stella is pleased to have a friend to confide in as there is a lot on her mind, especially when she begins to suspect a highly unusual secret about her mother. Why is there such a strange family relationship with water? Are Grandma’s odd comments about mermaids just part of her dementia or is there more to them? What does the picture of a mermaid drawn by her mother mean and why had it been hidden away? Stella decides it is time to investigate her suspicions and she sets off on a mission to uncover the truth.

What follows is a thoroughly gripping adventure with dark twists and turns, fascinating characters and just the right amount of suspense to keep readers’ eyes glued to the pages until a resolution has been reached (I read this in one sitting). The difficult themes of bereavement, dementia and abusive relationships are handled with due sensitivity and there is nothing too frightening in this unusual story, with plenty to feel optimistic about at the end.

With a highly original concept, mesmerising storytelling and a beautifully portrayed exploration of character identity and relationships, I highly recommend this for Years 5-6.

Books to make you think about protecting the ocean

Dan Sentat
Graphic Novel

A 245-page graphic novel by Caldecott Medal winner and New York Times bestselling author-illustrator Dan Santat. Sophia’s father, a marine biologist, was lost at sea when his research vessel sank. At the mercy of investors, the ‘Aqualand’ marine reserve he founded to protect sea life and continue their research is getting slowly but surely turned into a money-making theme park. One day, a strange being in an old fashioned diving suit emerges from the ocean searching for ‘Aqualand’. When they meet Sophia there, it is revealed that the suit is piloted by four friends from the ocean who, having found her father’s journal near his shipwrecked vessel, are wowed by the promise of a safe haven where they can be protected from the dangers of the ocean. Sophia becomes firm friends with these brave little creatures, and in their humorous adventures not only do they help Sophia with her science project, but together they save ‘Aqualand’ and make it into the haven it was always supposed to be.

Kate Messner
 & Matthew Forsythe
A beautiful picturebook with potential to inspire art and writing. All it takes is one: one coral gamete to start a colony in the ocean, one person to make a difference in the world, one idea to help us heal the earth. The ongoing conservation efforts to save and rebuild the world's coral reefs-with hammer and glue, and grafts of newly grown coral-are the living legacy of environmental scientist Ken Nedimyer, founder of the Coral Restoration Foundation. In telling the story of this sea conservation pioneer and marine life protector, Kate Messner and Matthew Forsythe create a stunning tribute to the wonders of nature and the power of human hope-a power even the smallest readers can access in their quest to aid our extraordinary planet.
David Wiesner

This award-winning wordless picture book offers endless opportunities for discussion and creative writing. A beach-combing young boy finds a washed-up camera on the shore, and when the film is developed it reveals a fantastic new world of creatures from the ocean. Incredible illustrations that speak for themselves. Read our blog for inspiration from one talented teacher who brought a Flotsam literacy unit to life.

Helen Scales
 & Lisk Feng

The Great Barrier Reef is a colourfully illustrated, delightful book full of facts. From the first page, the beautiful illustrations draw the reader in to learn all about the story of the Great Barrier Reef from how it began to the present day.

This book is full of information which could be shared in discussion or independently. You can dip into different sections, and focus on particular areas such as who dwells in the reef to shipwrecks and legendary tales as well as learning from the illustrations, so there is something for everyone. There is a glossary of technical language to explore, linking to science as well as geography.

This beautiful book is a captivating read for children and adults of all ages, with a clear message about protecting the wonder that is the Great Barrier Reef for future generations – not least because there is nowhere else in the world quite like it.

Non-fiction books about oceans and seas

Loveday Trinick
 & Teagan White

This impressive hardback is the closest thing you can get to a museum in book form. Suited to more mature readers in KS2, the book exhibits aspects of marine biology, diverse ocean habitats and environmental conservation. This is a beautiful large-sized non-fiction with full-page colour illustrations to pore over and plenty of scientific detail and vocabulary to learn. Oceanarium is a book to treasure and for readers who want even more, there’s an accompanying activity book available too.

Dr Dominic Walliman
 & Ben Newman

We are huge fans of this series at BooksForTopics HQ. Take a dive through the different layers of the ocean to the deepest trenches below with our favourite feline scientist, Professer Astro Cat. Each double-page spread offers a highly visual array of facts themed around a different stage of the sea voyage. Starting with fun on the seashore (did you know that most of the white sand in Hawaii is actually parrotfish poop?), we then join Professor Astro Cat as he boards a sea vessel and takes a crash course in navigation and ocean weather. The animals don their diving gear and explore the kelp forests and continental shelf of the shallow zone (find out how the torpedo ray can kill small fish with a 200-volt electric shock) before progressing deeper to discover a host of creatures including sharks and cephalopods. Going deeper still, Professor Astro Cat explores how the bigger and smaller creatures are connected via the food web before heading into the very darkest zones and deepest trenches (where you’ll find out how zombie worms got their name). Every page is highly visual down to the tiniest detail and the selected information is at once interesting and informative, allowing readers to delight in their newfound knowledge and quickly feel like an expert. The book is well suited to children in terms of reading level, design style and interest range.

Jess French
 & Claire McElfatrick
Fish, sharks, whales, and invertebrates swim through the pages of this colourful ocean book, which combines gorgeous illustrations and photos to help young enthusiasts learn all about the world's oceans. Children will learn interesting facts, and explanations about how the ocean functions, such as, how underwater plants and species rely on each other, and how ocean animals have fun and look after their young. This beautiful book is the perfect gift for young animal and conservation enthusiasts.
Leisa Stewart-Sharpe
 & Emily Dove

In collaboration with BBC Earth and based on the Blue Planet II TV series, this illustrated non-fiction book is designed to help children to dive into the beautiful wilderness beneath the waves and to emphasise the unique importance of ocean life to our planet. The book is structured as a journey through different ocean settings – starting with The Deep and travelling through green seas, coral cities, coastlines and the big blue outback (an oceanic desert that is seemingly empty but is the home to majestic giants like sperm whales and great white sharks).

Sabrina Weiss
 & Giulia De Amicis
Ocean: Secrets of the Deep offers the reader an insight into every aspect of ocean life in a visually stunning and informative way. From ocean environments to species evolution and from threatened ecosystems to ocean exploration, information is presented in an exciting and attractive way. The breadth of subjects covered is impressive and each one is done brilliantly.

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