Book Bites: Under The Sea - Picture Books Going Beyond the Sea

I often tell kids how lucky I am to live so close to so many wonderful worlds, Sea World being one of them. A recent visit beyond the sea to this world famous attraction plunged me back into all things Atlantis. It was marvellous. Fortunately, there is a raft of equally phenomenal picture books into which youngsters can immerse themselves for fun – and learning. Here are just some of the special ones.

Bad Crab

This is basically a wordless picture book with a restrained use of just one expression however when coupled with Philip Bunting’s comically styled illustrations, the result is a visually powerful and entertaining narrative. Crab is a cranky crustacean whose first reaction to newcomers is to claw nip them, an anti-social behaviour not uncommon among young biting pre-schoolers. His unaccommodating mood swings push his sea-mates literally to the edge and force them to abandon their cantankerous chum. A change of circumstance forces Crab to re-evaluate his behaviour leading to a reunion but nobody is out of the kelp forest yet as it were for even more concerning troubles lurk close by. Cautionary and comical, this tale is saturated with themes of friendship, kindness and consequence.

Title:  Bad Crab
Author:  Amelia McInerney
Illustrator:  Phillip Bunting
Publisher:  Omnibus Books, $24.99
Publication Date:  July 2019
Format:  Hardcover
: 9781742994475
For ages:  3+
Type:  Picture Book

Buy the Book: Scholastic, Boomerang Books

Baby Shark: Adventure Down Under

This little book of froth and bubble has a sparkly cover and bold bright images depicting a slew of (common Australian) sharks in their natural habitat. The narrative is sparse and simple based on the annoyingly popular Baby Shark ditty which is sure to set the mood for youngsters. This upbeat atmosphere is the ideal environment for absorbing the bubble-encased fun facts relating to each shark, making it a perfect introduction of marine biology for kids as young as three.

Title:  Baby Shark: Adventure Down Under
Author:  Penguin Random House Australia
Illustrator:  Katie Kear
Publisher:  Penguin Random House Australia, $14.99
Publication Date:  May 2020
Format:  Paperback
: 9781760897970
For ages:  3+
Type:  Non Fiction Picture Book

Buy the Book: Booktopia, Boomerang Books, QBD

How To Make A Friend in 6 Easy Steps

We all know for some, making friends is one of the most daunting things on earth to undertake. Turns out, underwater, it is no easier, especially for Rosie the shark who is desperate for a companion to play with, so desperate, she studies ‘how-to’ for days.  Convinced that if she follows the 6 easy steps dictated by her book, she’ll have a friend by lunch time. Alas for Rosie, it doesn’t quite work out that way…or does it? This tale subtly embraces perseverance, builds resilience and features a delightful array of sea creatures that swirl stereotypes around into a lovely vortex of friendship, guaranteed to entertain and bolster confidence both in the ocean and the school yard!

Title:  How To Make A Friend in 6 Easy Steps
Author:  Dhana Fox
Illustrator:  James Hart
Publisher:  Scholastic Australia, $17.99
Publication Date:  January 2021
Format:  Hardcover
: 9781760973414
For ages:  3 – 8
Type:  Picture Book

Buy the Book: Boomerang Books, Booktopia

Australia Under The Sea 1, 2, 3

Continue your underwater odyssey with the bestselling author of Australian Baby Animals, Frané Lessac. Her latest creation takes children and their adults deep into the mystical magical world of a coral reef. Factual information is balanced by an eyeful of gorgeous underwater scenes each depicting one (or more) of the local inhabitants. This counting book introduces readers to stripy sea snakes, spotty eagle rays, clever dolphins, elegant sea horses and more until we reach an ocean’s dozen. The last spread is a glorious collection of every creature and entreating ‘look and find’ finale. I love it and for the very young, there is also a board book coming out this month!

Title:  Australia Under The Sea 1, 2, 3
Author / Illustrator:
Frané Lessac
Publisher:  Walker Books Australia, $24.99
Publication Date:  November 2020
Format:  Hardcover
: 9781760652272
For ages:  1 – 4
Type:  Non Fiction Picture Book

Buy the Book: Walker Books, Boomerang Books


Nicole Godwin’s latest eco-themed picture book could be her masterstroke to date. Clever, creative and just a smear unsettling, this tale of a beautiful (moon-type) girl-jelly’s attraction to a big, strong boy-jelly as he surges through the sea with eerie abandon captivates from the first line. She is in love with the unknown (aka a plastic bag), a temptation that is scorned by her own kin and ultimately sets her on a path for destruction. Jelly fish may not have brains, but thanks to the determination and devotion of her family, jelly-girl is saved from a fate worse than death; the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This is a big issue to compress into the picture book space but Christopher Nielsen’s stunning graphics and Godwin’s playful first person (jelly) prose, not only instil an important message, they paint a story swirling with purpose and understated positivity. Recommended for eco-rangers, ocean lovers and those with a penchant for the unusual, Jelly-Boy is perfect for inspiring discussion and action.

Title:  Jelly-boy
Author:  Nicole Godwin
Illustrator:  Christopher Nielsen
Publisher:  Walker Books, $24.99
Publication Date: February 2020
Format:  Hardcover
: 9781760651237
For ages:  3+
Type:  Picture Book

Buy the Book: Walker Books Australia, Boomerang Books

No Place For An Octopus

It isn’t just the open ocean or colourful coral reefs that encompass the wonders of the sea. Look closely at any seaside rock pool and you’ll discover, as young children are wont to do, a myriad of fascinating sea life. When a young boy spies a multi-armed marvel hiding in one such pool, he embarks on a retrospective journey of fantasy, sure that if he were to ‘rescue’ said octopus he could fill its life with joy, comfort and companionship; it looked somewhat lonely after all. Eventually his musings return to the rock pool from whence they started and he and the octopus agree on what is best for the both of them. This gently amusing tale ignites empathy between different species, a notion often overlooked in our egocentric human worlds whilst taking the reader on a fun nonsensical romp. Zorn is known for her deep hitting YA and middle fiction offerings. Her first picture book doesn’t lose sight of seriousness but also whole heartedly embraces silly; an appeal-boost if ever there was one in a world that can be too hard core at times. This will have octopuses everywhere laughing and applauding loudly.

Title:  No Place For An Octopus
Author / Illustrator: Claire Zorn
Publisher:  UQP, $24.95
Publication Date:  November 2019
Format:  Hardcover
: 9780702262609
For ages:  4 – 8
Type:  Picture Book

Buy the Book: UQP, Boomerang Books



Norah Colvin said…
Thanks for introducing me to these books, Dimity. They all sound gorgeous.
DimbutNice said…
Always a pleasure, Norah. Feels like I've been to Sea World all over again after experiencing these titles. :-)

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