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Rivers, Coasts and Water Topic

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Best children’s books about rivers, coasts and water

A river is a large, natural stream of flowing water that usually flows out to sea. The topics of rivers, coasts and water are components of the National Curriculum in primary schools, covering aspects of both Science and Geography. From erosion and tributaries to precipitation and the water cycle, we’ve got the topic well covered with our selection of the best children’s books about rivers, coasts and water.

Chapter books about rivers and coasts

Eva Ibbotson
Chapter book

Winner of the Smarties Book Prize Gold Award, this is a very popular choice for KS2. It tells the story of a small girl called Maia, who journeys down the Amazon River with her strict governess, making friends and enemies along the way. It is rich in descriptive language in both its depiction of the Brazilian jungle and in its descriptions of complex and cruel characters that will stay with you long after you close the book.

Kenneth Grahame
Chapter book

This is a children’s literary classic. Set along the river bank, it recounts the humorous adventures of Toad, who relies on his helpful friends Mole, Ratty and Badger to keep him safe from a series of disasters that he seems to bring upon himself.

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.

Tim Bowler
Chapter book
Winner of the prestigious Carnegie Medal, this profound novel is incredibly rich in descriptive language. It tells the story of swimming-obsessed Jess as she struggles to come to terms with the impending death of her grandfather, who insists on finishing one last painting before he dies. Jess meets a mysterious river boy and is faced with an ultimate challenge of her own to complete. This is a novel that deals with themes of life and death and is suitable for more mature or confident readers.

Picturebooks about rivers, coasts and water

Joy Cowley
 & Kimberly Andrews
Picturebook
"Come with me. Come with me. I will take you to the sea," sings the stream to Cam, the mountain boy. And so Cam's adventure begins, an adventure in which he will see many strange and wondrous sights, and make a marvellous discovery. In this resonant story, Cam the mountain boy follows the river from its trickling source in the snow all the way to the sea. The river leads him through forest, farms and towns to the salty wind of the sea. The dramatic landscapes are packed with detail to discover in the world of the river. A poetic and beautifully illustrated picture book exploring the different forms that water can take.
Marc Martin
Picturebook
This is a stunning picture book about a girl who observes a river outside her window and imagines where it might go. The book follows the incredible journey of the river through different landscapes, including cities and forests, and there is much to spot in the details of each double-page spread. Highly recommended across both KS1 and KS2.
Joe Todd-Stanton
Picturebook
This is a richly illustrated story from the much-loved Joe Todd-Stanton. Erin is the daughter of a fisherwoman. Despite living in a fishing town, Erin is not allowed out to sea herself because of the legend of the Black Rock, which casts a mysterious shadow over the town. Determined to discover its secrets for herself, Erin stows away and soon finds herself exploring the rich ecosystem it harbours and desperately seeking a way to protect the Black Rock from impending destruction.
Grahame Baker-Smith
Picturebook
This is a beautiful picture book that explores the remarkable journey of the water cycle. From a few drops of rain in a little boy's jar to the depths of the vast ocean and back to clouds in the sky above, wonderful water is given centre-stage in this gentle narrative that evokes awe at the sheer beauty and scale of nature's systems.

Non-fiction books about about rivers, coasts and water

Julie Vosburgh Agnone
 & Kerry Hyndman
Non-fiction
Fearless adventurers, set sail on a fascinating voyage down the world's most extraordinary rivers! Discover over 100 of the world's most incredible rivers in this fascinating title by Julie Vosburgh Agnone and illustrated by prize-winner Kerry Hyndman. Amazing Rivers takes readers on a tour of the world's waterways, revealing the animals that call them home, the societies that rely on them, and the environmental issues threatening them along the way. Learn about incredible wildlife, from brown bears catching salmon that swim upstream to anacondas large enough to eat a pig. Explore astounding natural wonders, from a boiling river so hot you can cook an egg in it to a multicoloured river that flows like a liquid rainbow. And discover awesome river traditions, from ritual baths to rubber duck racing to barefoot waterskiing!
James Carter
 & Nomoco
Picturebook Poetry

Publishers are spoiling us at the moment with a wealth of non-fiction titles for children that are presented with creativity and a high visual appeal. Once Upon a Raindrop: The Story of Water by James Carter and Nomoco immerses the readers into the wonderful world of water; from the tiny raindrops that drip and drop onto hills to the waves roaring mightily in the oceans and then to the wispy evaporations of steam and clouds.
More than a simple explanation of the water cycle, this book uses gentle and poetic verse to evoke the transient flow of water through its different forms, accompanied by swirling, meandering watercolour illustrations. Sometimes the shape and sizes of the words on the page seamlessly blend with the images to further bring life to the poetry…

Lori Harrison
Picturebook

An informative picture book aimed at teaching children why water is valuable and what changes they can make in their everyday lives to conserve and not waste water. The book starts by exploring different uses for water, moving on to how our water is cleaned at treatment centres before closing with ideas for children to consider about how they can use less water.

DK
Non-fiction
Dive into the life-cycle of water and discover how it supports all life forms, how humans harness its power, and why we need to conserve it. From snowflakes falling from the clouds and deep ocean currents to hot springs and water in space, this children's nature book showcases the beauty and power of water in the natural world.
Sangma Francis
 & Romolo D'Hipolito
Non-fiction

If you know Flying Eye publishing house’s output, you will know before you even see this book that ‘Amazon River’ is a beautiful object, that the art will be as thoughtful as the writing, the quality of paper as important as the factual information.
Reading this to a class as the launch to a topic on the Amazon/Rainforests will undoubtedly whet the children’s appetite to learn about this astonishing and awe-inspiring place. The introduction is amply matched by the end piece, ‘A river of the World’, which sums the book up perfectly, as well as acting as an excellent discussion starter on the interconnectedness of our planet…


Melissa Stuart
Non-fiction
This information text all about water contains high-quality photographs and accessible text that explains the science of the water cycle. Recommended for lower KS2.

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