Book Bites: Somewhere Beyond the Sea...Picture Books that celebrate World Oceans Day

Considering that over 75 per cent of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, it makes sense to invite a deeper knowledge of our wondrous oceans and seas. This selection of recent picture books are a feast of colourful fun and facts guaranteed to whet the curiosities of many budding oceanographers.

My First Book of Sea Creatures

Vibrantly illustrated by Zoë Ingram, this illustrated nonfiction picture book is a joy to read and cinch to navigate through. Colourful end pages immediately immerse readers into the world of 20 sea creatures ranging from clownfish, hermit crabs, narwhals and coral polyps. Species specifics are boxed alongside bold and brilliant ‘Did you know?’ fun facts. Particularly alluring are the size scales provided beneath each brief creature description for example, sea snakes are 17 – 128 cm long, equivalent to the length of a bicycle. Everything is reinforced with brilliant visuals. An index at the end of the book provides a colourful reference for kids to tick off the animals that they have actually seen in the sea. Brilliant! Although I’m not sure I want to get that close to a colossal squid! My First Book of Sea Creatures deserves a spot on any child’s bookshelf. Ingram has also illustrated others in this natural history series including, My First Book of Birds and My First Book of Woodland Animals.

Title:  My First Book of Sea Creatures
Author / Illustrator: Zoë Ingram
Publisher:  Walker Books, $27.99
Publication Date:  June 2021
Format:  Hardcover
: 9781406394924
For ages:  2 – 7
Type:  Non Fiction Picture Book

Buy the Book: Walker Books Australia, Boomerang Books

Meet The Oceans

This little number is a marvellous mash up of Octonaunts meets Thunderbirds in a thrilling journey to the deep. Caryl Hart escorts youngsters through our planet’s magnificent oceans and most significant seas in an underwater rhyming adventure. The verse is conversational and snappy, cleverly incorporating the primary features of each ocean; their location relative to land mass, their inhabitants and their climatic characteristics. It’s a marvellous follow-on from the former book of sea creatures. As we submarine around the waterways, readers are reintroduced to many of the creatures they are already getting to know, this time in their actual underwater environments.

Bethan Woollvin’s retro-esque illustrations are magnificent, utilising a colour palette of just half a dozen bold, bright, iridescent hues. They emphasis descriptions and add fun whilst providing plenty to analyse. With its gentle homage to environmental concerns and the oceans’ wellbeing, Meet The Oceans is a sublime and illuminating experience for youngsters and adults alike.

Title:  Meet the Oceans
Author:  Caryl Hart
Illustrator:  Bethan Woollvin
Publisher:  Bloomsbury Children’s Books, $14.99
Publication Date:  April 2021
Format:  Paperback
: 9781526603630
For ages: 3+
Type:  Picture Book

Buy the Book: Bloomsbury Books, Boomerang Books

The Great Barrier Reef

Despite living and working on the doorstep of the Great Barrier Reef for some years, diving its depths, beating across its surface under sail, and flying above its magnificent formations, this book is a revelation. Thoughtfully broken down into alluring chapters, each segment focuses on the creation, history, inhabitants, ailments and future of the reef depicting one of the greatest natural wonders of our world as a living breathing thing, which essentially, it is.

Marine biologist and ocean lover, Helen Scales introduces readers to the world’s biggest coral reef system via short pithy paragraphs loaded with information that help clarify and crystalise what many of us are already vaguely aware of and create a sense of awe as new discoveries are disclosed. We learn how coral ecosystems are born; how we can enjoy and explore their mysteries before moving on to investigate some of the many dwellers who call the reef their home. And although I used to swim among the colourful parrotfish, listening to them munch and crunch on coral I had no idea that their coral diet is recycled into sand. That’s right; those beaches I once luxuriated on are in fact parrotfish poo!

Fantastic facts like this one are secreted throughout this strikingly illustrated book, which includes aspects about the Reef that do not ordinarily spring to mind when one thinks of the GBR, especially from a touristic point of view. Legendary Indigenous tales that are inextricably entwined with this amazing structure are included for example completing the overall picture.

This journey through nearly 400, 000 square kilometres of dazzling colour, intricate ecosystems and unique creatures, carries a strong conservation message but ends on a positive if slightly opened ended note; that as majestic and unique and mega as the Reef is, it cannot heal itself alone. Hopefully, books like this will inspire and educate young people and motivate them to learn and care for our natural wonders for generations to come. Even if you have not yet witnessed the spectacle of the Great Barrier Reef in real life (and one day you must), this coffee table worthy publication is a stunning introduction and a beaut reference guide to take you there vicariously.

Title: The Great Barrier Reef
Author:  Helen Scales
Illustrator:  Lisk Feng
Publisher:  Walker Books, Flying Eye Books imprint, $34.99
Publication Date:  June 2021
Format:  Hardcover
: 9781911171782
For ages:  7+
Type:  Non Fiction Picture Book

Buy the Book: Walker Books Australia, Boomerang Books

Earth’s Aquarium

Earth’s Aquarium will blow the minds of marine obsessed young people. Beautifully bound with a shimmering foil bubbled cover, this large sized hardcover picture book is a magnificent testimony to our world under the sea. In fact, it’s an absorbing exploration of the many intriguing habitats that constitute our underwater worlds including: mangroves and coastal estuaries, tropical reefs, deep-sea vents, wet lands, fast-moving fresh water and the open oceans to name but a handful of the 15 or so habitats included in this study. The foreword alone creates a deep sense of empathy and intimacy as the author invites us to literally leap down there with him to discover the incredible range of aquatic life.

This great expedition begins with detailed passages on water variables, examining how light, currents, pressure, chemical quality, and physical events impact on the bodies of water that make up our seas, oceans and big lakes. The tone then alters into a pattern of imaginative and informative narrative as the author, Kaufman, escorts us through a mesmerising tour of real life locations. The text is tween and teen friendly, exquisitely detailed and almost prose-like yet suffused with insightful facts relative to that particular location. Immediately following each of these stunning two page spreads is a more detailed look at the species that call that location home.

Mariana Rodrigues’ rich, realistic, colour saturated illustrations are enhanced by the generous dimensions of this book, providing an evocative sense of actually laying on the mudflats of Wadden Sea or racing with the currents through the North Pacific Ocean or skimming across the rippling Norfolk Broads. It is beyond thrilling and an absolute sensory delight. Earth’s Aquarium is a trip around our blue planet. It’s an eye opening, close up exposé of some of its most seldom noticed aquatic environments and above all it’s a glorious celebration of life.  Highly recommended for the sheer wonder and experience and as a supreme gift.

Title:  Earth’s Aquarium: Discover 15 Real-life Water Worlds
Author:  Alexander Kaufman
Illustrator:  Mariana Rodrigues
Publisher:  Walker Books, Magic Cat imprint, $44.99
Publication Date:  June 2021
Format:  Large format Hardcover
: 9781913520090
For ages:  7 – 100
Type:  Non Fiction Picture Book

Buy the Book: Walker Books Australia, Boomerang Books

In happy commemoration of World Oceans Day 8 June.



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