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For STEM Friday, we have four new children's books about ocean animals that were nominated for the 2015 Cybils award in the Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction category, each with its own unique voice and intended audience.

Hungriest Mouth in the Sea, The by Peter Walters explores ocean food webs.

Follow the animals in the ocean to find out who is at the top of the ocean's food web. Young children will be intrigued by this mystery told in rhyming text. The collage illustrations have interesting textures to explore, as well.

The best part of the book is that it has four pages of learning activities in the back matter, including a predator and prey matching game, plus food web cards to copy and cut out.

Hungriest Mouth in the Sea is a lively introduction to the concept of food webs and the interactions between ocean animals.

Related:  Be sure to visit the Arbordale Publishing website for a link to a free 35 page .pdf Teaching Activity Guide to accompany this book (download at link in the right sidebar).

Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Arbordale Publishing (September 10, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1628556366
ISBN-13: 978-1628556360

Could a Shark Do Gymnastics?: ...and other questions - Hilarious scenes bring shark facts to life! (What if a) by Camilla de la Bedoyere and illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff is a fun picture book that compares what a shark can do with some common human activities, allowing children to easily relate to the information.

This factual book dances on the edge of fiction with cartoon illustrations of sharks in funny situations. A shark with 240 teeth going to the dentist? At its nonfiction core, however, the child will also learn many current facts about sharks, such as the fact that sharks don't need a dentist because they continually grow new teeth. The facts are repeated to reinforce learning in a “Fact File” in the back.

Looking for a book to entice a reluctant reader? Could a Shark Do Gymnastics? is a perfect choice because it has all the elements needed to capture and hold a child’s attention. It would also be a wonderful choice for budding marine scientists, to accompany a trip to an aquarium, or of course, to accompany a trip to the beach,

Age Range: 3 - 5 years
Grade Level: Preschool - Kindergarten
Publisher: QEB Publishing (August 3, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1609927710
ISBN-13: 978-1609927714

The Blue Whale by Jenni Desmond is a whimsical picture book about blue whales that draws the reader in with relatable information.

The illustrations make this book shine. Desmond contrasts the relatively realistic forms of the whales in swimming in dark blue waters with children wearing bright colors doing fantastic things, like riding in a whale's mouth. This is the type of book that children will want to spend time exploring every illustration and are likely to discover more with each reading.

The informational text shares fascinating facts, starting with how large an adult blue whale actually is, what whales eat, and what they sound like. The tone is just right, not only giving the information, but also keeping the reader's interest.

The Blue Whale is delightful! Share it with a budding ocean scientist today.

Age Range: 4 - 8 years
Grade Level: Preschool - 4
Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books (May 26, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1592701655
ISBN-13: 978-1592701650


Extreme Animals: Sharks by Ben Grossblatt is essentially a field guide to sharks for the middle grade set.

After introducing sharks with a few pages of general information about things like their anatomy and teeth, the book continues with a series of two-page spreads on different species of sharks. In addition to the familiar great whites and hammerheads, the author has included less popular species, such as the banded wobbegong and the goblin shark. Of course, no book about sharks would be complete without the largest fish in the world, the whale shark.

Each two-page spread includes facts about that particular shark, several color photographs and sidebars with fast facts, as well as maps where those sharks are found throughout the world. The tone is even and informational, not sensational at all.

Extreme Animals: Sharks is a good, solid introduction to shark identification and diversity. It would be perfect to accompany a trip to an aquarium or to the ocean, as well as units on ocean habitats.

Age Range: 8 and up
Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books; Har/Pstr/T edition (July 14, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1626863822
ISBN-13: 978-1626863828

Want more books? See our growing list of children's books about oceans (organized by age of reader) at Science Books for Kids.



Disclosure:  The Blue Whale was provided by my local library. The books were provided by the publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.


For STEM Friday we have two titles that were recently nominated for Cybils nonfiction awards, both about octopuses.

Octopus-arms(Public domain photograph of octopus arms from Wikimedia)

Octopuses are amazing animals and make fascinating reading. Although they are mollusks, and thus related to slugs and snails, octopuses are quite clever. Some of their other unusual features include:

  • Have the ability to rapidly change color and texture to blend in with their surrounding or startle predators.
  • Have the ability to pass through tiny openings and press themselves into crevices much smaller than themselves.
  • Can drill into shells to extract the food inside.
  • Can also pry shells open with their strong arms.
  • Can produce a cloud of ink and jet away to confuse predators.
  • Can recognize individual humans even if the people are all dressed alike.

Our first book for youngsters is Octopuses!: Strange and Wonderful by Laurence Pringle and illustrated by Meryl Henderson.

A straightforward informational text, Octopuses! gives a wonderful overview of the biology of these fascinating creatures. The author first explains that octopuses are mollusks and discusses some other common mollusks. Then he gives a detailed description of the anatomy of a typical octopus and some of the different kinds. Other topics include what eats octopuses (predators), how they hide by changing colors (camouflage), and what octopuses eat. The author also explains the life cycle in some detail.

Although the text is clear and exceptionally well written, it is the illustrations that really raise the quality of this book. They are colorful, well laid out, and full of drama.

Octopuses! is a wonderful choice for a child interested in ocean creatures or to read to prepare for a trip to an aquarium. It is likely to inspire the next generation of marine biologists!

Age Range: 7 - 9 years
Publisher: Boyds Mills Press (April 7, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1590789288
ISBN-13: 978-1590789285

Our second book for slightly older readers, The Octopus Scientists: Exploring the Mind of a Mollusk (Scientists in the Field Series) by Sy Montgomery and photographs by Keith Ellenbogen, follows four octopus researchers from very different backgrounds as they look for octopuses around the island of Moorea in the Pacific Ocean.

As with the other titles in the Scientists in the Field series, the focus is as much on the scientists who study octopuses as the animals themselves. In the first chapter we meet four scientists  who have devoted their lives to researching these amazing creatures. Canadian Jennifer Mather wanted to study marine biology, but found resistance in what was perceived as a "man's" field. Instead she became a psychology professor and then applied her studies to octopuses. American David Scheel studied lions for his doctorate degree, but when he couldn't find a job working with lions, switched to marine biology. Tatiana Leite is a professor of marine ecology in Brazil. Keely Langford works at the Vancouver Aquarium.

The rest of the chapters document their efforts to find and study the local octopuses, while at the same time revealing details of octopus biology. For example, their excellent camouflage skills that protect the octopuses from predators also make them hard for scientists to track down. Often the scientists look for the shells left behind from when the octopuses feed, piles called middens, for clues of their whereabouts.

If you have ever wanted to don a wet suit and search the ocean floor for octopuses, The Octopus Scientists is the book for you. If not, reading it might just make you want to give it a try.

Age Range: 10 - 12 years
Grade Level: 5 - 7
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (May 26, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0544232704
ISBN-13: 978-0544232709

For ideas for related activities, visit our recent ocean science week link list.


Interested in learning more about scientists? Try our list of great titles from the Scientists in the Field series at Science books for kids, as well.

Disclosure: The books were provided by my local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.


Today for STEM Friday we are featuring The Next Wave: The Quest to Harness the Power of the Oceans (Scientists in the Field Series). Author Elizabeth Rusch introduces us to a number of scientists who are working hard to convert the mechanical energy of ocean waves into electrical energy. See a full review at our sister blog, Wrapped in Foil.

Waves are actually very complex and we are still learning about them.

How do waves form?

The waves in the ocean form due to wind blowing on the surface. The shape and size of the waves depend on the force and steadiness of the wind, and the distance over which the wind travels, called "fetch." The shape of the wave is also influenced by the depth of the water, especially as it meets the shore.

Activity 1. Exploring Waves


  • Plastic bin
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Dropper

You may use a sink or bathtub to hold the water, but because you will be blowing across the surface, a plastic bin situated on the waterproof surface of a counter or tabletop will probably be easier to maneuver around. This would be an ideal activity to try outdoors.


Fill the bin 3/4 full of water.

Ask the children if they have ever been to the ocean and seen waves. If they have not, consider showing a video (YouTube has dozens).


Brainstorm about how to form waves. If water splashes are not a problem, allow the children to free-explore their ideas about how best to produce waves. They will probably put their hands in and swirl the water.

Now reveal that waves are formed by wind blowing over the water. Have the children blow and see how the waves look different from those they produced using their hands.

Did they form in parallel lines like in the video above?

Once the children have seen waves, add a drop of food coloring to the water and have them blow waves again. How does the water move? Do all layers move the same way?

Many texts will tell you that the water in the deeper part of the ocean does not move forward as a wave passes by, but simply travels in a circle or oscillates. Proof is given when an object floating in the water simply bobs up and down, rather than moving forward.



If you look closely at the second video, however, you will see that the top layer of the water with the food coloring moves across the surface with the waves. Why?  One possible solution is that the bin is too shallow and the waves are behaving more like those at the shore, where the circular motion is disrupted. Can you think of any other reasons?

Activity 2. Water Vortices

Older students might want to try the experiments with vortices suggested in this video by Physics Girl (has a pop-up ad):

Isn't that incredible? I can't wait until it is warm enough to try it myself.

If your children like these activities with waves, be sure to pick up The Next Wave: The Quest to Harness the Power of the Oceans (Scientists in the Field Series) . It introduces young readers to an exciting new technology that will capture the energy of waves and convert it to useful electrical energy. The book will definitely inspire young readers who want explore waves and oceans. It is also a great resource for adults who want to learn more about this relatively new area of research on a potentially renewable source of energy.

Age Range: 10 - 14 years
Grade Level: 5 - 9
Series: Scientists in the Field Series
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (October 14, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0544099990
ISBN-13: 978-0544099999

You might also be interested in other books we have reviewed from the Scientists in the Field series. 



Disclosures:  The book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.  I am an affiliate for Amazon, and if you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.


Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.