“Look, Mom! It’s Nemo!” If I had a nickel for every time I heard a child say this while pointing at the zoo or library aquarium, I’d be well on my way to rich. And I have to admit, every time I hear it, I cringe. I just find it incredibly sad that children can look at a beautiful, real, live creature and immediately associate it with a singular, fictional, animated character. Have they never seen fish in real life? Read a book about fish? Watched a television show or movie (other than Finding Nemo) starring fish? There is so much more to aquatic life than Nemo and Dory, but these kids have missed it.
This has put a bad taste in my mouth for the film, which is unfortunate because it’s actually a very enjoyable movie. I reminded myself of this a couple weeks ago when my five-year-old and I were contemplating a mother-son date. I set aside my qualms with Nemo, and took my son to see him in 3D. We had a good time, and I found a renewed appreciation for Nemo (although I was tempted to get my son to point and yell, “Look, Mom! It’s a Clownfish!” when Nemo first came onscreen).
Finding Nemo really is an entertaining movie, and it provides a glimpse into sea life that might inspire families to learn more about these fascinating creatures. We chose Turtle: The Incredible Journey as our next at-home family movie night pick, and of course we loaded up a grey tub with books from our local library. Here are a few of our favorites:
Down Down Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea
by Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children | 2009
Starting at the surface of the ocean, readers travel down to the bottom of the sea, learning about a variety of creatures along the way. A key along the right side of each 2-page spread provides a visual perspective of the ocean’s depth, and additional information about each creature is found in the back of the book.
I Spy Under the Sea
by Edward Gibbs
Templar Books | An Imprint of Candlewick Press 2011
A game of I Spy comes to life in the ocean through stunning digitally created illustrations, circular cut-outs on every other page, and a clue provided by the spied creature. Part counting book, part guessing game, part informational text, this book is a pure delight.
by Robert Neubecker
Disney | Hyperion Books 2011
Bold, colorful, full-page illustrations take the reader into the busy and exciting world of the sea. Each 2-page spread highlights one aspect of ocean life and includes a simple phrase – Wow! Sharks! or Wow! Coral Reef! Readers who carefully inspect the illustrations can also follow two children on an ocean exploration.
Into the A, B, Sea: An Ocean Alphabet
by Deborah Lee Rose with pictures by Steve Jenkins
Scholastic Press | 2000
Learn about sea creatures, A to Z, and how they move and live through Jenkins’ cut paper collage illustrations. The back matter of the book provides a short explanation about each animal and could serve as a great jumping-off place for further study.
Somewhere in the Ocean
by Jennifer Ward & T.J. Marsh and illustrated by Kenneth J. Spengler
Rising Moon | 2000
“Somewhere in the ocean where the warm waters run lived a mother manatee and her little calf one…” so begins this ocean-life adaptation of the sing-able children’s classic.
In the Sea
by David Elliott and illustrated by Holly Meade
Candlewick Press | 2012
Meade’s beautiful woodblock print and watercolor illustrations are full of movement and accompany a short poem for each creature featured in this book.
Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems
by Kate Coombs and illustrated by Meilo So
Chronicle Books | 2012
Watercolor illustrations and delightfully insightful poems explore the creatures and features of the sea.
by Eric Carle
Philomel Books | 2004
Mister Seahorse cares for his young ones as he meets and greets other ocean fathers doing the same. Eric Carle’s painted tissue paper collages and a few special peek-a-boo pages make this book engaging for children of all ages.
by Leo Lionni
Scholastic | 1963
This is the timeless tale of a single fish who loses everything, explores the ocean, and makes a way for other fish to overcome their greatest fear. (Sounds a bit like the inspiration for Finding Nemo, if you ask me.)
Shark in the Dark
by Peter Bently and illustrated by Ben Cort
Walker & Company | 2008
A new take on the classic big fish versus small fish solution, this story relies on the same solution as that of Swimmy. The rhyming text and bright illustrations make this one a fun read aloud.
I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean
by Kevin Sherry
Dial Books for Young Readers | 2007
The star of this story, a giant squid, barely fits on the pages of the book. He is, after all, the biggest thing in the ocean…and proud of it! Even when he stumbles into unfortunate circumstances, the ever-optimistic, overly-enthusiastic giant squid doesn’t relinquish his claim to fame.
Barry the Fish with Fingers
by Sue Hendra
Alfred A. Knopf | 2010
The ocean is full of interesting creatures, and Sea Slug is sure he’s seen them all, until he meets Barry – the fish with fingers! Barry is happy to demonstrate how fingers are the cure for fishy boredom and soon all the fish in the sea are longing for fingers of their own.
This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. All books were borrowed from our local public library.