Each time one of my boys has turned two, we’ve celebrated with a trip to the Birmingham Sea Life Centre.
Last month was my smallest’s turn to break the two year barrier [sob], so we crossed the M1 to the mighty Brum for our bi-annual Sea Life adventure.
In the week running up, we made sure we pulled out some of our favourite undersea stories, which was really a great way of looking ahead to our exciting trip and learning about some of the undersea creatures we might see.
We’re massive Julia Donaldson fans, and so it’s no surprise her stories featured heavily on our reading list…
Sharing a Shell
(Julia Donaldson & Lydia Monks)
This really is a delightful tale of a crab on the hunt for his new shell. After narrowly escaping the jaws of a hungry seagull, he find shelter in an empty shell and is soon joined by two new friends – anemone and bristleworm. As the tale unfolds, we find out all about crab’s news friends and the role they play helping to look after him. What was great is that we saw real anemones at the Sea Life Centre and the boys were able to recognise them and know what they do (we saw crabs too!).
The story is written in Julia’s phenomenal rhyming style and is really brought to life by bright, sparkling illustrations by Lydia Monks. All my boys have enjoyed Sharing a Shell, so it’s really suitable as a first story book right through to when your little people have grown out of pictures books. This, alongside Tiddler, definitely makes our Top 10 Julia Donaldson reads.
Tiddler, The story telling fish
(Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler)
With my last comment in mind, Tiddler is next up. Tiddler is a storytelling fish with a whole host of unlikely tales to explain why he keeps turning up late for school (“Sorry I’m late. I was riding on a seahorse. Sorry I’m late. I was flying on a ray. Sorry I’m late. I was diving with a dolphin.” Tiddler told a different story every day). But one day he really does get into a muddle, and it’s his reputation for storytelling that eventually leads him home.
There are so many sea creatures featured in this book, from teacher Miss Skate and Little Johnny Dory, to Rabbitfish, Leaf Fish, deep underwater fish and a seal; A rather odd looking Gruffalo fish even makes an appearance.
Again, the rhyme and pace of this story, and its excellent use of repetition, makes it so much fun to read, not to mention the countless colourful sea creatures and the chance for a silly voice or two. This story is slightly longer than Sharing a Shell, and whilst my just-turned two-year-old will sit and listen to it in its entirety (and has done for quite some months), it may not be every toddler’s cup of tea. Having said that, there’s so much to point to, talk about and spot, that you’ll probably just enjoy looking at the brilliantly illustrated pages and making up your own little tales.
Catch me if you Can
(David Styring & Jo Byatt)
This is a boldly illustrated story about Terence the fish (what a name!) who longs to win the fastest fish trophy his dad won as a boy. But there’s one problem – Terence just isn’t very good at swimming. But before long, with practise and determination, and some encouragement from his dad, Terence shows everyone what he’s capable of.
There are lots of sea creatures to spot in this rhyming story, from crabs and octopuses to seahorses and starfish. It’s a lovely tale about how practise makes perfect, and would also be good for any reluctant swimmers out there.
The Snail and the Whale
(Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler)
In The Snail and the Whale, an adventurous snail with an itchy foot wants to travel the world, so hitches a ride on the back of a humpback whale. The whale takes the snail “to towering icebergs and far-off lands with fiery mountains and golden sands” but soon finds himself in trouble, and it’s the quick-thinking snail who comes to the rescue.
It’s fair to say this is the least underwater of the books listed here, but it is a lovely story featuring a good amount of sea life. It’s one of Julia Donaldson’s longer tales, so again more suited to children who are ready to sit and listen for five-minutes-plus.