Rivers, Coasts
  & Water

Journey to the River Sea

Eva Ibbotson

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. There is also an accompanying Read & Respond guide (click to view on Amazon).


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The Wind in the Willows

Kenneth Grahame

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. 

Song of the Dolphin Boy

Elizabeth Laird

This new story from award-winning author Elizabeth Laird is a great choice for upper 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. 

Why Water’s Worth It

Lori Harrison

 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. 


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 this blog post for creative ideas about using this text with a KS2 class.


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River Boy

Tim Bowler

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. 


Marcus Sedgwick

This is a gripping novel that is popular with upper KS2 and more confident readers. It tells the story of Zoe, who has to escape her home in Norwich because it has been turned into an island by the rising sea. She is on a quest to find her missing parents, but encounters strange new friends and dangerous enemies along her way. A story of courage and survival in a world brought to chaos through global warming. 


Also featured on: Best Books for Y6


A River

Marc Martin

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. 

The Secret of Black Rock

Joe Todd-Stanton

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. 

The Rhythm of the Rain

Grahame Baker-Smith

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.


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How Does a Lighthouse Work?

Roman Belyaev

This is a superb non-fiction text that explores the topic of lighthouses. Each double-page spread addresses a different question, such as ‘What Is it Like on the Top Deck?’, ‘How Does the Light Shine So Far?’ and ‘What Happens When It’s Foggy?’ and the book is cleverly structured so that each question builds on knowledge from the previous pages. The text is accompanied by striking illustrations and diagrams that show a range of different types of lighthouses from all different angles and celebrate the way in which lighthouses are carefully constructed and engineered according to their geography and purpose. On the final pages, the reader is challenged to walk through the steps of designing their own lighthouse. A highly recommended addition to your primary library.

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The River Singers

Tom Moorhouse

A modern alternative to Wind in the Willows, this is the story of a family of water voles and the adventures that they have on their journey along the Great River.

The Drop in my Drink: The Story of Water on Our Planet

Meredith Hooper & Chris Coady

This book explores the history of water on our planet. It is a thought-provoking text that enables readers to reflect on the fact that the water in their glass has a very long history before it came out of the tap! Topics covered include the water cycle, ecosystems and erosion. 

The 'Where on Earth?' Book of: Rivers

Susie Brooks

An informative text about different rivers all around the world. Designed for KS2, this non-fiction text answers different questions about rivers, such as 'Who uses rivers as roads?' and 'How long would it take to swim the River Nile?'. 

River Story

Meredith Hooper & Bee Willey

This is the winner of the English Association's Non-Fiction Award. It uses clear text and beautiful illustrations to recount the journey of a river from its beginnings in the mountains all the way to the sea.

The Secret of Spiggy Holes

Enid Blyton

This is part of 'The Secret Stories' adventure series by the classic children's author Enid Blyton. It is the tale of Mike, Peggy, Nora and Jack, who are out exploring a Cornish seaside resort when they discover a secret passage leading to a mysterious old house. This is a great story to read aloud and it contains some excellent descriptions of the beautiful coastal setting as well as a good dose of Blyton-style adventure and mystery.

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A Drop in the Ocean: The Story of Water

Jacqui Bailey & Matthew Lilly

Part of the popular non-fiction 'Science Works' series, this book uses cartoon-style illustrations and humorous text to explain the water cycle to children. The book also contains an experiment and links to websites to find more information. 


Melissa Stuart

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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