Ocean Books for Summer Reading

It’s June, which means Summer Reading 2022 is in full effect at the Joplin Public Library. This year’s theme is “Oceans of Possibilities,” and we have planned a summer’s worth of fun ocean events and activities for families. Although we live far from any ocean, books featuring the sea and marine animals abound and are well-loved in the Children’s Department.

I have selected a few of my favorite ocean titles to share, with the common thread being a message of self-esteem and acceptance.

One might feel less than if they don’t have an obvious talent or are not the best at what they do. Your cute and cheerful axolotl friend Dewdrop is here to remind you that you don’t have to be the best to be important. In the end, all that matters is whether you tried your hardest. K. O’NEILL‘s 2020 picture book debut “DEWDROP” follows the eponymous axolotl as they visit and encourage their friends training for a sports fair. A self-described cheerleader, Dewdrop visits Turtle, who thinks she’s no good at lifting weights; Newman the newt, who thinks he stinks at singing; and three minnows, who aren’t sure they are the best chefs.

O’Neill is also the artist behind the lushly written and illustrated “Tea Dragon Society” series for middle graders, and their foray into books for younger children does not disappoint. The illustrations in this picture book are bright, incorporating a lot of emerald green, bright pink, sunshiny yellows, and purples. Dewdrop and their friends, which include a turtle with a headband, a musical newt and culinary minnows, have a Kawaii quality to them, so cute you can hardly handle it. Thankfully, the story and the message are as sweet as the pictures.

Find DEWDROP in our catalog. 

Another ocean title that excels at spreading a message of self-acceptance is JESSIE SIMA‘s “NOT QUITE NARWHAL.” This 2017 book follows Kelp, a unicorn born and raised in the ocean as a narwhal. He knows he can’t do things that his narwhal friends can do, but everyone likes Kelp just the way he is. When a strong current pulls him into shore, he spies a unicorn high on a cliff and realizes he may not be a narwhal after all.

Kelp spends time on land, learning how to walk and, eventually, finding the other unicorns. Naturally, they live under rainbows and frolic through flowers all day. However, Kelp starts to wonder, with a tinge of homesickness, whether he belongs with the unicorns either. After encouragement from both sets of friends, he realizes he is perfect just the way he is: not quite narwhal, not quite unicorn, but fully and perfectly Kelp. The illustrations are reminiscent of newspaper comic strips, and the colors are all soft pinks, blues, and purples, with pops of neon colors. Follow-up book “Perfectly Pegasus” was recently released and is now available at the Joplin Public Library.

Find NOT QUITE NARWHAL in our catalog.

My third affirming ocean title is MOLLY IDLE’s “PEARL.” This picture book tells the story of a young mermaid yearning to be given a job as important as those held by her big sisters. When her mother informs her that she must watch over a single grain of sand, she is crestfallen. Though her mother assures her “the smallest of things can make a great difference,” she feels let down. Over time, Pearl comes to realize the grain of sand is much more significant than she thought. More importantly, she realizes how significant she is.

With “Pearl,” Idle excels at matching the words to the imagery; the story reads like a poem or, more appropriately, a series of waves rolling in. The ocean setting takes center stage, with blues ranging from midnight to turquoise. Pearl stands out with a neon pink tail and flowing, white-blonde hair. Several pages show Pearl’s tail changing direction in front of the blue background, giving the impression of slow-moving, kelp-like waves.

Find PEARL in our catalog. 

I love the gentle affirmations these books provide and am thankful that so many children’s authors are making books like these. For more suggestions, come see us at the library. Don’t forget to sign up for summer reading and check out our summer events!