The best stories set under the sea

Water holds an endless fascinating for small children, from splashing in the bath to meeting the residents of rock pools at the beach.

While this summer has been something of a mixed bag in terms of paddling weather, you can still share the wonder of the sea by sharing books on the topic, or using them to quell any fears about what it holds.

There’s a whole new vocabulary to learn too and the beauty of the underwater world makes for some eye-catching, gorgeous picture books.

Ready to take the plunge? Here are our favourites…

My Little World: Big Fish Little Fish by Jonathan Litton, illustrated by Fhiona Galloway. £5.99 (board book), Little Tiger Press

This vibrant board book from the My Little World series is a fishy feast for your little one’s senses with an educational opposites theme.

Their eyes will love the brightly coloured artwork and cast of friendly looking fish, while the sharp rhyming text will be music to their ears. And their fingers will be unable to resist the fish-shaped, concentric holes in rainbow hues cut into the chunky pages. They are perfect for a game of peekaboo too!

The Marine Team by Madeleine Rogers and Jason Hook. £4.99 (board book), Button Books

Nurture your mini David Attenborough with this simple introduction to some delightful deep-sea dwellers. Designer Madeleine Rogers’s bold, stylised illustrations are combined with rhyming but factual text by Jason Hook about the characteristics of a turtle, sea horse, shark, seal and blue whale.

There’s also a gentle message about caring for our fellow Earth dwellers running through the book, which is part of a series by design house Mibo exploring the planet’s different habitats and the animals who inhabit them.

Tropical Terry by Jarvis. £6.99 (paperback), Walker

The value of personality over looks and accepting who you are is at the heart of this new book by author-illustrator Jarvis, one of the most exciting picture book creators around.

Terry the fish tries to get his more tropical neighbours to play with him and pals Cilla the crab and Steve the sea snail, but they snub him for being dull. So when Terry undergoes a dazzling transformation, he finds himself on everyone’s radar – including that of a hungry eel…

It’s witty, warm and has a charming cast of characters made for doing funny voices. The artwork is also gorgeous to look at.

What we’re reading: Pick A Pine Tree by Patricia Toht and Jarvis

First Baby Days: Splish Splash. £5.99 (board book), Pat-a-Cake

Real thought and care has been put into this sensory board book to ensure it will appeal to budding bookworms from the youngest age. The black, white, blue and red colour palette is easy for developing eyes to focus on and there are sparkly bits and different textures to touch.

Mojca Dolinar’s illustrations also have friendly smiling faces and interesting patterned bodies to look at. For slightly older readers, there are the names of the different sea creatures to learn, a gentle repetitive refrain on each page and lots of engaging descriptive words.

Bizzy Bear: Deepsea Diver by Benji Davies. £5.99 (board book), Nosy Crow

Grab your wetsuit and jump aboard the submarine with Bizzy Bear for an interactive, underwater adventure. This simple story by bestselling author Benji Davies sees our captain and his animal crew sail through shoals of fish, past spooky shipwrecks and encounter a giant clam filled with treasure.

It’s all brought to life with sliders to push and pull, making your child part of events, rewarding them with some exciting surprises and building their fine motor skills at the same time. They’ll love joining in with the catchy repetitive text, too.

We meet author-illustrator Benji Davies

Smiley Shark by Ruth Galloway. £6.99 (paperback), Little Tiger Press

When Smiley Shark flashes his pearly whites at his underwater neighbours, he’s only trying to be friendly – but the fish are understandably alarmed by the size and sharpness of his intimidating gnashers. How can he convince them that he wants them as pals, not dinner?

This funny book was an early favourite of Baby Bookworm, after he discovered it on the bookshelf at his grandparents house, and it’s not hard to see the appeal. Humour, friendship and brightly coloured, clearly illustrated images.

Sea: A World Beneath The Waves by Britta Teckentrup and Patricia Hegarty. £11.99 (hardback), Little Tiger

I can’t get enough of Britta Teckentrup’s illustrations, especially in her natural world collaborations with Patricia Hegarty which feature die-cut pages to enhance the artwork and reveal surprises on each page.

This one set under the sea is just dreamy, with vivid shoals of tropical fish and soothing calm waters of green and blue. The rhyming non-fiction text is also beautifully written, informative and easy to read aloud.

Little Explorers: Under The Sea. £9.99 (board book), Little Bee Books

This interactive non-fiction series is an accessible way to introduce four to eight-year-olds to all sorts of concepts about the natural world and science. The titles come in oversized board book form, with lots of flaps to lift to reveal fascinating facts, while still have compelling illustrations that younger ones will enjoy looking at.

This underwater edition is especially enjoyable, opening up your child’s eyes to all sorts of new worlds and creatures.

A First Book of the Sea by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton. £14.99 (hardback) Walker

This stunning anthology of simple illustrated poems about our blue planet is truly a book to treasure. It celebrates the sea and all its changing moods, as well as the diverse creatures who make it their home, from anglerfish and limpets to puffins and sailors.

The oversized pages are perfect for poring over, thanks to Emily Sutton’s detailed and delightful artwork.

Touch and Trace: Under The Sea by Hannah and Holly. £6.99 (board book), Templar

Hone your child’s fine motor skills on a journey from the shoreline to the depths of the ocean, with this simple book featuring distinctive, bold artwork and a finger trail to trace.

The text is also incredibly interactive, with questions to ask your toddler about what they can see and plenty of new vocabulary to enjoy.

This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen. £6.99 (paperback), Walker 

This darkly dramatic underwater instalment in Jon Klassen’s award-winning hat trilogy sees a cheeky little fish make off with the headwear of a much larger sea creature – and it is only a matter of time before he gets his comeuppance…

As always with Klassen, the artwork is stunning and the pictures often speak louder than words, especially as we see the wronged big fish stalk the thief – and the visual punchline when he glides out of the seaweed wearing his hat and his prey is nowhere to be seen.

What we’re reading: I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

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