Read, Discuss, Do! Book List: 12 Books about Water

By Tina Cho

Summer is a time for water. Water can be in so many forms and places: a teardrop, steam, a puddle, a bath, a pond, the ocean. These books, both fiction and nonfiction, explore water in all of its forms, inviting readers to do a little splishing and splashing as they learn about water in nature, in other cultures, and how water calms.


I hope this list of 12 water books inspires you to not only talk about water and nature with your children, but also to get out and explore water sources with them. You don’t need much. Perhaps a faucet, a hose, or a pond will excite your child’s curiosity. 


Ideas for things to DISCUSS: 

  • What are all the ways you use water in your day?

  • Do you have a favorite water activity? 

  • What would you do if you didn’t have clean, running water?

  • How can you conserve water?

Ideas for things to DO:

  • Make a paper boat to float on water.

  • Participate in a water activity: squirt guns, swimming, bubble bath.

  • Visit a local source of water such as a pond, lake, river, or ocean.

  • Make the three forms of water: ice solid, steam vapor, melting to liquid.

  • Draw your favorite water animal.

  • Clean up litter at a beach or water source.

And now, for the list!


Water Is Water by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin


This rhythmic story with sparse text will keep readers guessing all the forms water can take from steam to snow and even apple cider. Children can discuss water forms they see around them.



Hey, Water!  by Antoinette Portis


A girl speaks to the water and finds all the places water hides from a sprinkler to dewdrop to a snowman and even inside her own body. Back matter explains the water cycle and the three properties of water. After reading this book, children can locate water in their neighborhood, even in their own home.



Water Can Be...by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Violeta Daboja


A child uses her imagination to show forms of water throughout the seasons: a rainbow jeweler, a fire snuffer, and a salmon highway are some of the creative ways to think about water. This book can foster creative expressions about water.



Ocean Seasons by Ron Hirschi, illustrated by Kirsten Carlson


This book describes the busyness of the ocean during each season. What are ocean plants and animals doing from spring to winter? This book might encourage a visit to the ocean or a video of sealife. 



Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal


In this book, children will learn about animals under and over the pond such as heron, crayfish and otters. Back matter gives further facts about each creature. After reading this book, readers might visit a local pond and make a list of their own sightings of animals over and under their pond.



Off to See the Sea by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon


In this fun story, bathtime becomes a scented sea as mom and child use their imagination, turning a regular pastime into a diving adventure. This book might encourage little ones to soak in their own tubs for an imaginative swim.



The Mess That We Made by Michelle Lord, illustrated by Julia Blattman


Youngsters will learn about ocean pollution in this poignant, rhythmic text that starts, “This is the mess that we made. These are the fish that swim in the mess that we made.” The growing, repeating pattern shows the effects of ocean pollution and invites the reader to keep the ocean clean and promotes activism. Perhaps a local beach cleanup could follow this story.



The Water Princess by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds


Based on a true story of African model Georgie Badiel, this book tells how a young princess of Africa awoke early every morning to collect water for her family. She & her mother carried water pots on their heads miles from home. Back matter shows photos of how Georgie is making a difference to the water supply in Burkina Faso. This story might encourage kids to be thoughtful about how they get their own water and to help others in need.



The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story by Tina Cho, illustrated by Jess X. Snow


This story is based upon Korean women divers, most who are between 50-80 years of age and dive without breathing equipment. Dayeon wants to be a haenyeo like her grandmother but must first conquer her fear of deep water. Back matter shares facts about the haenyeo tradition.

This book might encourage discussions about how people use the ocean, about different seafoods, Korea, and conquering one’s fear of swimming. 



Boats for Papa  by Jessixa Bagley


This is a sweet story of Buckley the beaver & his mother and how he misses papa and makes boats with notes for him each evening to sail out to sea. This heartfelt story might encourage discussion about why people send messages out to sea or even how to comfort a grieving loved one.



The Heart of a Whale by Anna Pignataro


A quiet, dreamy story of a whale’s song that is carried through the ocean, comforting creatures, yet wishing and hoping for something to fill his heart. Children might discuss other sounds the ocean carries.



Ocean Lullaby by Laura McGee Kvasnosky, illustrated by Kate Harvey McGee


This ocean reading series can end with a soft ocean lullaby, shhh, hush, shhh, hush. What do sea creatures do at night? 




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