Under the Sea
Booklist: Oceans & Seas (KS2)
Oceans & Seas
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 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 recommended 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 for this topic, we have a separate booklist here.
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 vocabularly to learn. Oceanarium is a book to treasure and for readers who want even more, there's an accompanying activity book available too.
Professor Astro Cat's Deep-Sea Voyage
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 KS2 in terms of reading level, design style and interest range.
Smart About Sharks
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.
Earth's Incredible Oceans
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
The Lost Whale
Hannah Gold & Levi Pinfold
A highly-recommended story with themes of family bonds, parental mental health and environmental conservation. The story centres on a connection between an eleven-year-old boy, Rio, and a beautiful grey whale.
As the story unfolds, the whale needs help and Rio has to bring together all of the resources he can to untangle her from the dumped fishing nets that ensnare her. After reading the story, I considered the plight of the whales in a new way and gained an increased awareness of the dangers posed to these beautiful creatures by human activity. Hannah Gold's beautifully descriptive prose not only draws out the simbiosis between the powerful natural world and the depth of human emotion, but also strikes the perfect balance between recognising the weight of very real problems of the modern world on a personal and global level, while drawing out how courage, working togather and finding harmony with nature can provide an optimistic way forward.
Interview with a Shark
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.
Atlas of Ocean Adventures
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.
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.
This is a beautiful graphic novel which shows how important chosen family and friendships can be. It also highlights the damage done to the ocean by humans as we dump our waste without care and fail to appreciate the value of sea life. This would be an ideal graphic novel to explore and learn about ocean life and protection of the environment, as well as loss and the different forms family can take.
Blue Planet II
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).
he book ends with a call to action - a plea for ocean heroes to safeguard our seas by heeding the advice of scientists and taking everyday actions that can help to protect our Blue Planet.
With a foreword from David Attenborough and beautiful illustrations by Emily Dove, this informative book offers a fascinating insight into the wonder and fragility of the oceans.
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.
Ariki and the Giant Shark
Nicola Davies & Nicola Kinnear
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.
Ocean: Secrets of the Deep
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.
A particularly impressive and relevant section is ‘Oceans in Peril’ and features the ‘plastic soup’ page which explains how plastic is affecting ocean life in different ways. There are also details of how you, the reader, can make a positive difference to the oceans.
The infographics throughout the book are bright and appealing, offering the reader bitesize chunks of information. These bursts of information are beautifully illustrated and very effectively presented, using comparisons to make the sometimes mind-blowing statistics more accessible.
The Day I Met a Whale
Michael Morpurgo & Christian Birmingham
Short 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.
The Brilliant Deep Rebuilding the World's Coral Reefs
Kate Messner & Matthew Forsythe (Illustrato
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.
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.
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.
For inspiration on using the book creatively in the classroom, visit this blog post from a talented Y5 teacher.
Song of the Dolphin Boy
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 highly topical and thought-provoking novel.