8 spellbinding books about the ocean

Published on: 24 March 2021 Author: Helen Scales

Nothing inspires a sense of mystery and adventure quite like the ocean - home to beautiful fish, adorable octopi, and some seriously weird deep-sea creatures. Marine biologist and author Helen Scales shares her eight favourite books all about the deep blue sea...

Marine biologist and author Helen ScalesHelen Scales

I grew up in a house full of books and I’m sure my love of nature and the ocean was deeply kindled by the journeys I went on across all those pages. I went on to become a marine biologist and diver, and I’ve been lucky to explore many amazing places in the sea. And it’s been an awesome adventure to write my first book for young readers, about the living wonders of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Loads of brilliant books explore the oceanic realm and the strange and spellbinding creatures that live there, as well as the amazing people who explore down beneath the waves. Here are a few of my favourites.

Ariki and the Giant Shark by Nicola Davies

Ariki is a girl after my own heart. She lives on Turtle Island and spends her whole time swimming in the sea. When a giant shark arrives, Ariki discovers it needs her help and with her newfound powers only she can save the day.

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Orlando The Marmalade Cat: A Seaside Holiday by Kathleen Hale

As a kid, I treasured the stories of the marmalade cat, Orlando, his wife Grace and their three kittens, and this story was always my favourite. The cats have a great adventure in Owlbarrow (based on Aldeburgh in East Anglia which I didn’t visit until years later), they stay in a wooden ship on the beach (which I always dreamed of staying in too), they find a mermaid and bravely rescue people from a shipwreck.

Illustration from The Great Barrier Reef by Helen Scales and Lisk FengIllustration: Lisk Feng

The Big Book of the Blue by Yuval Zommer

Gorgeous illustrations by Yuval Zommer accompany a string of fun questions about the undersea world. Is a jellyfish made of jelly? Why do crabs sideways? Do sharks eat people?

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Blueback by Tim Winton

This beautiful fable for all ages is about a boy called Abel Jackson who lives with his mother in Longboat Bay. He has adventures with his friend, a giant fish called Blueback, until a terrible threat arrives in Longboat Bay and Abel takes matters into his own hands.

Shy Ones by Simona Ciraolo

Illustration from Shy Ones by Simona CiraoloIllustration: Simona Ciraolo

Is there anything more adorable than a flapjack octopus? I doubt it! The story of Maurice is super-enchanting, as are the illustrations of many other sea creatures, all of them based on real species I’ve seen underwater.

Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle

From the legendary author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Mister Seahorse takes us on a journey through the ocean to meet a host of amazing fish dads who look after their babies in all sorts of surprising ways.

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Shark Lady by Jess Keating

The hero of this book is Eugenie Clark, the American marine biologist who made great discoveries in the ocean - including the fact that sharks are smart!

Professor Astro Cat’s Deep-Sea Voyage by Ben Newman and Dr Dominic Walliman

Illustration from Professor Astrocat's Deep Sea Voyage by Dr Dominic Walliman and Ben NewmanIllustration: Ben Newman

Most cats I know hate getting wet, but that doesn’t seem to bother Professor Astro Cat as he dives into the deepest parts of the sea to study all sorts of animals and the places they live.

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