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Water play books

Water Play Picture Books

Educate and excite your kids about the properties and playfulness of water with these reads.

Summer vacation is here, and that often means water, water everywhere! From pool day fun to ocean vacations to rainy afternoons, celebrate the wonder of water with these stories.

Jabari Jumps

by Gaia Cornwall (Candlewick Press, 2017)

Recommended by staff at Tattered Cover Book Store and both Denver and Boulder public libraries, this story shows how a boy processes excited and scared feelings at the same time, when he decides to jump off the diving board. “It takes courage, but Jabari finally jumps—with lots of support from his dad and his little sister,” says Kate Brasch, children’s book buyer at Tattered Cover. “The illustrations of the swimming pool in the city are vivid and many-colored and summery.”


by Kelly DiPucchio; illustrated by Raissa Figueroa (Katherine Tegen Books, 2021)

Oona the mermaid and her otter friend search for treasure every day, but she fixates on a treasure at the bottom of the ocean that she can’t reach: a sparkly crown. Oona devises many plans to get the crown which don’t quite work. She finally reaches it with the help of some other items (some goggles and a seashell), and sees those items’ value, too.

Water is Water

by Miranda Paul; illustrated by Jason Chin (Roaring Brook Press, 2015)

This book, recommended by Denver Public Library children’s librarians, teaches about the water cycle through clever, poetic text: Drip. Sip. Pour me a cup. Water is water unless…it heats up. Similar language continues throughout, showing kids experiencing water in all its forms and through all seasons of the year.

Jules vs. The Ocean

by Jessie Sima (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020)

Jules is determined to impress her older sister with the biggest sandcastle ever. When she starts building at the edge of the ocean, the tide continually washes her creations—and then her bucket—away. She starts to think the ocean is against her. It’s a tale to which many young shore-builders will relate, alongside the theme of sisterhood.

Hello, Rain!

by Kyo Maclear; illustrated by Chris Turnham (Chronicle Books, 2021)

Summers in Colorado are sure to mean surprise afternoon showers—the perfect time to teach your kids how to have fun in the rain. The story celebrates all the good things that rainy days can bring, and is full of figurative language, action, and quiet moments, too.

Goldfish on Vacation

by Sally Lloyd-Jones; illustrated by Leo Espinosa (Random House Children’s Books, 2018)

Three siblings are stuck in the city for the summer with their pet goldfish, when one day, someone starts fixing the old fountain down the street. A sign appears by the fountain: Calling All Goldfish Looking for a Summer Home. The kids are excited to release their goldfish into the fountain for “vacation.” They visit them often, and at summer’s end, they splash in the fountain with other families to scoop up the fish in nets. It’s based on the true story of the Hamilton Fountain in New York City.


Note: Want to support local bookstores? Check out these spots that have great options for kids.

Librarians and book experts also recommend:

Pool background: Constantine Johnny/Getty Images. Jabari Jumps: Candlewick Press; Water is Water: Macmillan; Oona: HarperCollins; Jules Vs. The Ocean: Simon & Schuster; Hello, Rain!: Chronicle Books; Goldfish on Vacation: Penguin Random House.

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