One of the joys of summer is spending time at the ocean and seeing ocean life through the eyes of children, who are endlessly fascinated by all that lives in the sea. Here are three new picture books to help answer a child’s questions about all things aquatic.


Dolphins are amazing to children: mammals that live in the water! Nicola Davies tells the story of these graceful animals in Dolphin Baby!. Illustrated by Brita Granström, this charmer follows the life of a baby dolphin from birth to first breath to the moment of independently catching its own fish. Filled with factual detail, the more complicated in smaller type for parents to explain, Dolphin Baby! will satisfy the curious youngster, whether she has actually seen a dolphin or not. Granström’s breathtaking brushstrokes make it easy to imagine life in the ocean and the comparisons to human development will help young readers connect with their seagoing relatives. This book could be the starting point for a lifelong love of dolphins.


In the Sea brings David Elliott and Holly Meade back together with a companion book to On the Farm and In the Wild. Meade’s stunning woodcuts swim off the page and invite the young reader to enter the magical world of the ocean. Each short rhyming poem briefly introduces the young sea enthusiast to one creature. I can just imagine a young reader poring over this oversized volume, memorizing the poems and noticing the details in the illustrations. The rich rhymes (apparition/magician, tuxedo/torpedo, sandy place/carapace, buffoon/balloon) are inviting and challenging while the drama of the woodcuts brings a gasp at every page turn. Each book in this series respects young scientists without overwhelming them.


A good teacher makes learning easy and interesting, and after reading Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas I imagine that Penny Chisholm, professor of ecology at MIT, is an amazing teacher. Her second collaboration with illustrator Molly Bang explains the role that microscopic plants called phytoplankton play in the earth’s ecology. Obscure scientific ideas are a challenge to my brain, but I could not stop reading this amazing book. Narrated by the sun, the book begins and ends with bright yellow, making the sun’s importance clear. The marriage of clear language with Bang’s rich illustrations made me want to slow down and really understand the importance of these little plants to the ocean’s food chain. Some of the pages are mostly black, allowing the reader to see the eerie “marine snow” of decaying animals. Ocean Sunlight is one of those special picture books that will appeal to all ages, from the youngster interested in ocean animals to anyone who appreciates the intricacies of food chains, seen and unseen.

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