Moby Dick: A BabyLit Ocean Primer

Written By: Jennifer Adams

Illustrated By: Alison Oliver

Before Reading

Explore Illustrations and Text:

Consider the cover with your child before beginning the story. For very young children, take this opportunity to point to the different elements on the cover and tell your little one what you see. For example, say “Look! This is the ocean. I see a whale, an octopus, a jellyfish, a seahorse and a ship with white sails.” If your child is verbal, ask simple questions to get him/her engaged like “What do you see? What is this?”

As You Read

Since there is minimal text in this book, you can have fun and create your own plot. Perhaps the sailors get lost at sea looking for Moby Dick and use the stars to find their way home. Whatever the story may be, be sure to use your best sailor voice and seagull calls. If your child is verbal, let him/her make suggestions for story plots as well. Say, “There aren’t that many words on the page so we can create our own story. Where do you think the sailors are going? Why?”

Vocabulary Building:

Help your child point to unfamiliar or interesting illustrations. Tell him/her the word for the object and encourage him/her to repeat it back to you or associate the sound with the object. For example, when you get to the word “anchor”, say something like, “Look, it’s an anchor. Can you say ‘anchor’? An anchor is very heavy and helps the ship stay in one place and not sail away. When the sailors want to stop somewhere, they throw it into the water tied to a big string and when they want to leave, they lift it back up.”For children who are verbal, try pointing to the ship and the fish and asking simple questions like “What is this?” Be sure to get excited and applaud when your child engages with you and the book! 

After Reading

Summarize and Interpret:

Asking questions is a helpful way to encourage your child to think about what s/he has just experienced. Regardless of understanding, ask about the story and what characters were present and then answer the questions yourself. Questions might include:

Did you like the story?

Can you show me your favorite picture?

What were the sailors trying to catch?

Activity: Ocean Discovery Bottle

Adapted from The Imagination Tree

Supplies: Large plastic bottle, water, baby oil, shells and pebbles, blue gel food coloring, strong glue, small toy fish and other creatures

  1. Use this activity to create your own ocean-in-a-bottle that your child will have a blast twisting and turning to create bubbles and waves. For older children, this can help facilitate conversation about the ocean and marine life.
  2. Pour about 200ml of baby oil into an empty plastic bottle and then add the toy fish, shells, and pebbles.
  3. Use a separate container to combine water with blue food coloring and stir it until it is a very light blue. Then tip the water into the oil and let your child watch what happens when the two liquids meet. Be sure that the bottle’s cap has been sealed securely with glue.