Best Children's Books About Boats

A Roundup of the Best 28 Books About Boats

Updated Apr. 16, 2019

Do you have a little boat lover on your hands? From tug boats, to row boats, to speed boats, to steamers, lucky for you, there seems to be a children's book about it, because what better mode of transportation is there for daring rescues, brave adventuring and valiant journeys home? We hope you enjoy these books about boats as much as we do!

Toy Boat book
#1
Toy Boat
Written by Randall de Steve and illustrated by Loren Long, Randall de Steve
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-2
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This book is gorgeously illustrated and is simultaneously a fun "boat book"—showcasing lots of different kinds of boats with some of their attributes—while also conveying a much deeper and more moving message about independence, letting go, and a deep friendship. This really resonated with me in terms of a parent-child relationship, and how that bond can be strengthened if you let go a little but remain a safe place to always return to.

A toy boat gets separated from its owner and has an adventure on the high seas.

Ahoy, Li'l Buccaneers! book
#2
Ahoy, Li'l Buccaneers!
Written by Mark Iacolina
board book
Recommend Ages: 1-4

Buccaneers sail. Buccaneers steer. Buccaneers grumble, snarl, and sneer. Hardy har har! Calling all Li'l Buccaneers to set sail on a fun adventure, filled with dancing, singing, sparring, and treasure hunting. Young swashbucklers and their pirate pals are guaranteed a mighty good time with this delightfully rip-roaring, rhyming board book.

Sheep on a Ship book
#3
Sheep on a Ship
Written by Nancy E Shaw and illustrated by Margot Apple
picture book
Recommend Ages: 0-3
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

I love this series! The rhymes are clever and I appreciate the addition of some less common vocabulary ("Sheep collide!"), and of course the illustrations are dynamic and humorous! It's such a quick, fun read-aloud, with tons of details to appreciate

Captain Small goes sailing, fishes from his boat, goes for an unexpected swim, and braves a storm on the way home.

Charlie's Boat book
#4
Charlie's Boat
Written and illustrated by Kit Chase
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5
Thoughts from Mr. Stacatto

I love these books by Kit Chase. The illustrations are beautiful and the stories are straightforward and simple. A cute story about friends being inclusive and helping each other out.

Best friends really are the best when they use their imaginations to help each other. Charlie, Oliver, and Lulu love to play outside together. One fine day they all go fishing, but Charlie doesn’t have much fun—all he can catch are sticks. Next, they build little boats and have a race, but, once again, things don’t go very well. Charlie’s boat comes in last. Things seem pretty gloomy until Oliver comes up with a plan. They build a special boat they can all play on, together! Kit Chase offers a sweet ode to friendship in this tale of three best friends who can count on each other to always make play time fun.

The Circus Ship book
#5
The Circus Ship
Written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

After courageously swimming to shore when the ship that they are traveling on sinks and the wretched captain does nothing to rescue them, circus animals find a way to become a valued part of a coastal community.

Little Pig Saves the Ship book
#6
Little Pig Saves the Ship
Written and illustrated by David Hyde Costello
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

It's hard to be the littlest, but when Little Pig's siblings all go off to sailing camp and he feels like he's missing out, his oldest brother and his grandpa do a great job of making sure Little Pig gets to be a little involved too. I appreciated the sweet and strong family relationships, the quality time they spend together and the realization Little Pig has that even though he's little, he still has something to contribute. The illustrations are sweet as well!

Little Pig is back in Little Pig Saves the Ship! When the sea-faring pigs go a-sailing! Intrepid Little Pig — still the littlest pig in the family — is too little to go to summer camp with his older brothers and sisters. He is left behind with Grandpa and Poppy. Little Pig and Poppy make and sail a toy ship all week, but on Saturday a gusty wind takes the ship into the current, and Little Pig has to use his newfound knot-tying skills to save the day. A sweetly told intergenerational story about how even the littlest can make a big difference.

Boats on the Bay book
#7
Boats on the Bay
Written by Jeanne Walker Harvey and illustrated by Grady McFerrin
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7
Thoughts from Readerly Mom

I was all hearts-for-eyes emoji over this book as soon as I picked it up in the bookstore, and I haven't stopped loving it. My three-year-old feels the same way. It's fun to look at and quick to read, making it easy to read over and over again. There's a lot to discuss in it too--we like to identify specific places, talk about what the various people are doing, and notice opposites. Yes, we definitely love it a little extra because we live in the San Francisco Bay Area and the illustrations prominently feature the bridges, islands, buildings, and horizons we know and love, but children and adults from anywhere will enjoy the beautiful illustrations and descriptions of many different types of boats.

Illustrations and easy to read text portray a variety of vessels, from houseboats to dredgers, through the course of a busy day on the bay.

The Red Boat book
#8
The Red Boat
Written and illustrated by Hannah Cumming
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from Readerly Mom

This would be a great book to read with a child who is moving to a new house or starting a new school. Its simple story and cute illustrations would help facilitate a discussion about how it's okay to be nervous in a new situation, and it's okay to rely on friends and things that are familiar, but it's also wonderful to get to know new friends. I also love the idea that having an active imagination can be a great tool for dealing with things that make us nervous!

Posy is afraid of her new house and all the unknown that comes with it, but when she and her dog find a red boat in the garden, she imagines all kinds of adventures and gains confidence despite being the new kid.

Harry and the Jaggedy Daggers book
#9
Harry and the Jaggedy Daggers
Written and illustrated by Jan Fearnley
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Harry and the Jaggedy Daggers The first charming instalment of the Bottlenose Bay series from award-winning author/illustrator Jan Fearnley. Harry the harbour mouse is heartbroken when his boat is dashed and smashed on the dangerous, mean old rocks - the terrible Jaggedy Daggers! But just as the sea brings mischief, it brings surprises too . . . A story about being brave. Even if you are very small and have only a teacup and a rusty teaspoon. Jan Fearnley is the best-selling author of Mr Wolf’s Pancakes and Arthur and the Meanies. Her beautifully crafted picture books are terrific for sharing and make for popular bedtime stories.

Three Bears in a Boat book
#10
Three Bears in a Boat
Written and illustrated by David Soman
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Afraid to face their mother after breaking her beautiful blue seashell, three bears set out on an high seas adventure to try to find a replacement.

Little Boat book
#11
Little Boat
Written and illustrated by Taro Gomi
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

When you're small and on the go, there's a lot to watch out for: big boats, waves, rain clouds, and more! But Little Boat can handle whatever comes his way, braving the elements and the unexpected with his initiative, confidence, and positive attitude. This colorful follow-up to Little Truck by beloved author-illustrator Taro Gomi will entertain toddlers sailing toward big adventures!

The Antlered Ship book
#12
The Antlered Ship
Written by Dashka Slater and illustrated by Eric Fan, Terry Fan
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

An inquisitive fox named Marco and a bored flock of pigeons join the crew of deer Captain Sylvia, setting sail in her antlered ship in search of a wonderful island and finding friendship on the way.

Oliver and the Seawigs book
#13
Oliver and the Seawigs
Written by Phillip Reave and illustrated by Sarah McIntyre, Phillip Reave
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 7-10

Get ready for moving islands! Mischievous monkeys! And a splashy adventure with illustrations on almost every page. When Oliver’s explorer parents go missing, he sets sail to find them with some new friends. There’s a grumpy albatross, a nearsighted mermaid . . . even a living island! But the high seas are more exciting and strange than Oliver could have imagined. Can he and his crew spar with sarcastic seaweed, outrun an army of sea monkeys, win a fabulous maritime fashion contest, and defeat a wicked sea captain in time to save Mom and Dad? For early chapter book readers who are ready for something longer, the Not-So-Impossible Tales are packed with silly humor, action, and larger-than-life fun.

Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea book
#14
Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea
Written by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Raul Colon
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This is definitely on the longer side, so is better suited to children with longer attention spans, but is a wonderful story of the contribution of Marie Tharp to our understanding of the world and particularly the ocean floor. A great read for burgeoning scientific minds encouraging us to keep asking questions and never give up!

Filled with gorgeous illustrations by acclaimed artist Raúl Colón, this illustrated biography shares the story of female scientist, Marie Tharp, a pioneering woman scientist and the first person to ever successfully map the ocean floor. Marie Tharp was always fascinated by the ocean. Taught to think big by her father who was a mapmaker, Marie wanted to do something no one had ever done before: map the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Was it even possible? Not sure if she would succeed, Marie decided to give it a try. Throughout history, others had tried and failed to measure the depths of the oceans. Sailors lowered weighted ropes to take measurements. Even today, scientists are trying to measure the depth by using echo sounder machines to track how long it would take a sound wave sent from a ship to the sea floor to come back. But for Marie, it was like piecing together an immense jigsaw puzzle. Despite past failures and challenges—sometimes Marie would be turned away from a ship because having a woman on board was “bad luck”—Marie was determined to succeed. And she did, becoming the first person to chart the ocean floor, helping us better understand the planet we call home.

South book
#15
South
Written and illustrated by Daniel Duncan
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-7

When a lonely fisherman finds an injured bird on his boat, he nurtures it back to health and--since the bird can no longer migrate with its family--charts a course to head south for the winter. Together, the two form a special friendship and enjoy life at sea until both the healing process and the journey must come to an end. In the tradition of the classic Amos & Boris, South is a story about making new friends and the bittersweet process of saying good-bye to the ones we love. It beautifully depicts the power of new beginnings and the freedom in coming home.

Mighty Tug book
#16
Mighty Tug
Written by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and illustrated by David Mottram
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

From early in the morning until time to say, "Good night," Mighty Tug works in the busy harbor, guiding cargo ships, pulling barges, and helping with rescues.

Boats for Papa book
#17
Boats for Papa
Written and illustrated by Jessixa Bagley
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Buckley and his Mama live in a cozy cabin by the ocean. He loves to carve boats, each one more beautiful than the last, out of the driftwood he finds on the beach nearby. He sends them out to see and if they don't come back, he knows they've found their way to his papa, whom he misses very much.

A River book
#18
A River
Written and illustrated by Marc Martin
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

There's a river outside my window. Where will it take me? So begins the imaginary journey of a child inspired by the view outside her bedroom window: a vast river winding through a towering city. A small boat with a single white sail floats down the river and takes her from factories to farmlands, freeways to forests, out to the stormy and teeming depths of the ocean, and finally back to the comforts—and inspirations—of home. This lush, immersive book by award-winning picture book creator Marc Martin will delight readers of all ages by taking them on a transcendent and aspirational journey through an imaginative landscape.

Little Tug book
#19
Little Tug
Written and illustrated by Stephen Savage
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-6

Little Tug knows what to do when the tall ship, the speedboat, and the ocean liner need him, and at such times, he is indispensible.

Bobo the Sailor Man! book
#20
Bobo the Sailor Man!
Written by Eileen Rosenthal and illustrated by Marc Rosenthal
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

Willie finds all sorts of interesting things while he and Bobo the stuffed monkey are exploring, including a bucket that would be a perfect boat for Bobo, but before he knows it, Bobo and the "boat" have disappeared.

Blue Boat book
#21
Blue Boat
Written by Kersten Hamilton and illustrated by Valeria Petrone
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

With the tremendous success of RED TRUCK in board book format and anticipation around YELLOW COPTER in board to match, we're thrilled to complete the primary-colored series about vehicles who save the day by bringing BLUE BOAT into board, too! When a family on a sailing outing gets stuck in a surprise storm, there is only one boat tough enough to handle the rocking waves and howling winds: Blue Boat! Now even the youngest readers can cheer on this "rough, tough tugboat."

Moby-Dick book
#22
Moby-Dick
Written by Jennifer Adams and illustrated by Alison Oliver
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

Little Master Melville teaches little ones the language of the sea in Moby-Dick: An Ocean Primer. From ships and sailors to squawking gulls and moody good captains, Alison Oliver’s brilliant illustrations and Jennifer Adams’ clever, simple text will make a sea dog out of any young shipmate.

The Little Sailboat book
#23
The Little Sailboat
Written and illustrated by Lois Lenski
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

Mr. Small is a sailor in this maritime adventure! Captain Small and his dog Tinker sail and fish together. When a storm comes, Captain Small heads for the safety of the shore. A comforting, nostalgic story full of information about sailing.

The Star Thief book
#24
The Star Thief
Written by Lindsey Becker
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

The constellations come to life in this imaginative fantasy adventure debut. Honorine's life as a maid at the Vidalia mansion is rather dull, dusting treasures from faraway places and daydreaming in front of maps of the world. But everything changes when she catches two brutish sailors ransacking Lord Vidalia's study, and then follows a mysterious girl with wings out into the night.... Suddenly, Honorine is whisked into the middle of a battle between the crew of a spectacular steamship and a band of mythical constellations. The stars in the sky have come to life to defend themselves against those who want to harness their powers. Much to her surprise, Honorine is the crux of it all, the center of an epic clash between magic and science, the old ways and the new. But can this spirited young girl bring both sides of a larger-than-life fight together before they unleash an evil power even older than the stars?

Alphabet Boats book
#25
Alphabet Boats
Written by Samantha R Vamos and illustrated by Ryan O Rourke
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Discover twenty-six types of vessels, from the more common — canoe and motorboat — to the unusual — umiak and Q-boat. Just like in Alphabet Trucks and Alphabet Trains, colorful art includes the letters of the alphabet hidden (and not-so-hidden) in supporting roles in the illustrations.

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected] with your book and list suggestion.