The best books for young explorers

Who am I?

I'm a world-class underwater explorer, writer, photographer, speaker, and filmmaker. A pioneer of technical rebreather diving, I have led expeditions into icebergs in Antarctica, volcanic lava tubes, and submerged caves worldwide. As a child, these fanciful places were just a part of my wildest dreams. The Aquanaut tells the story of how I turned my imaginative journeys into reality and became a celebrated underwater explorer.


I wrote...

Book cover of The Aquanaut

What is my book about?

This inspiring picture book encourages readers to explore their world, build their self-esteem and imagine what they can do and become when they grow up. Through beautiful, spare text, Jill Heinerth tells her story about a girl who feels too young, too little, and too far away from her dreams. But you don’t need to wait to grow up. It doesn’t take much to imagine all the things you can do and be. What if your bedroom were a space station? What would it be like to have flippers or tusks?

In your own home, you can explore new worlds and meet new friends. Jaime Kim’s luminous art transports readers back and forth through time to see how Jill’s imagination as a young girl laid the pathway to her accomplishments and experiences as an underwater explorer.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Journey

Jill Heinerth Why did I love this book?

This award-winning wordless children’s picture book follows a young girl on an elaborate expedition with a story about self-determination — and unexpected friendship. The lonely child uses a red marker to draw a magic door on her bedroom wall and uses it to escape into a world of adventure, wonder, and risk. The author-illustrator Aaron Becker propels an ordinary girl on an incredible journey toward her most exciting experience of all.

By Aaron Becker,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Journey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Be swept away on an elaborate flight of fancy in this Caldecott award-winning, wondrously illustrated picture book about self-determination and unexpected friendship.

The winner of the prestigious Caldecott Honor, and described by the New York Times as 'a masterwork', Aaron Becker's stunning, wordless picture book debut about self-determination and unexpected friendship follows a little girl who draws a magic door on her bedroom wall. Through it she escapes into a world where wonder, adventure and danger abound. Red marker pen in hand, she creates a boat, a balloon and a flying carpet which carry her on a spectacular journey ...…


Book cover of Girl Who Loved Giraffes: And Became the World's First Giraffologist

Jill Heinerth Why did I love this book?

When Anne Innis Dagg was a little girl, she longed to study giraffes in Africa. Many obstacles including gender discrimination stood in her way, so she hide her female identity to get a job and then traveled to Africa on her own. Anne fulfilled her dream and became the world's leading scientific expert on giraffes, inspiring the next generation of women scientists to pursue their dreams.

By Kathy Stinson, Francois Thisdale (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Girl Who Loved Giraffes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

When Anne Innis Dagg saw her first giraffe in a zoo she was entranced. So much so that a love for giraffes shaped her whole life. She decided at a young age that she would one day travel from her home in Canada to study giraffes in their natural environment in Africa.

After overcoming obstacles based on her gender, Anne succeeded in fulfilling her dream in 1956 and became the world's leading scientific expert on giraffes.

In The Girl Who Loved Giraffes, Kathy Stinson and Francois Thisdale have created a beautiful picture book that captures the dramatic story of Anne's…


Book cover of Treaty Words: For as Long as the Rivers Flow

Jill Heinerth Why did I love this book?

Simple lyrical illustrations bring this story about commitments to life. A wise grandfather guides his granddaughter on a journey of discovery teaching her about indigenous perspectives. This important book is moving and essential for readers of all ages. It offers authentic historic perspectives and helps to describe the responsibility of truth and reconciliation.

By Aimée Craft, Luke Swinson (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Treaty Words as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first treaty that was made was between the earth and the sky. It was an agreement to work together. We build all of our treaties on that original treaty.

On the banks of the river that have been Mishomis's home his whole life, he teaches his granddaughter to listen-to hear both the sounds and the silences, and so to learn her place in Creation. Most importantly, he teaches her about treaties-the bonds of reciprocity and renewal that endure for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and the rivers flow.

Accompanied by beautiful illustrations by Luke Swinson…


Book cover of Narwhal

Jill Heinerth Why did I love this book?

A happy-go-lucky narwhal and non-nonsense jellyfish discover the depths of the ocean together. This joyful and silly graphic novel celebrates friendship, adventure, and collaboration. The simple illustrations are compelling and accessible, drawing kids into a series of books that will leave them giggling.

By Ben Clanton,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Narwhal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

Narwhal is a happy-go-lucky narwhal. Jelly is a no-nonsense jellyfish. The two might not have a lot in common, but they do they love waffles, parties and adventures. Join Narwhal and Jelly as they discover the whole wide ocean together.
A wonderfully silly early graphic novel series featuring three stories. In the first, Jelly learns that Narwhal is a really good friend. Then Narwhal and Jelly form their own pod of awesomeness with their ocean friends. And finally, Narwhal and Jelly read the best book ever -- even though it doesn't have any words...or pictures!
Ben Clanton showcases the joys…


Book cover of Tomorrow I'll Be Brave

Jill Heinerth Why did I love this book?

This inspirational book for young explorers offers uplifting messages for kids, encouraging them to try new things and not fret about failure. Hand-lettered words of wisdom help to define what it means to be brave and confident, while teaching patience and tenacity. The colorful illustrations are memorable and immersive, offering opportunities for discussion about each page of positive values.

By Jessica Hische,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tomorrow I'll Be Brave as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

Tomorrow I'll be all the things I tried to be today:

Adventurous, Strong, Smart, Curious, Creative, Confident, & Brave.

And if I wasn't one of them, I know that it's OK.

Journey through a world filled with positive and beautifully hand-lettered words of widsom, inspiration, and motivation. As this book reminds readers, tomorrow is another day, full of endless opportunities - all you have to do is decide to make the day yours.

"Jessica Hische, one of the great designers and typographers, now shows herself equally adept at creating gorgeous and immersive images for young readers. This is a joyous…


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The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

By Maryka Biaggio,

Book cover of The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

Maryka Biaggio Author Of The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Historical fiction author Lover of hidden stories Research nerd Opera fanatic

Maryka's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

The Model Spy is based on the true story of Toto Koopman, who spied for the Allies and Italian Resistance during World War II.

Largely unknown today, Toto was arguably the first woman to spy for the British Intelligence Service. Operating in the hotbed of Mussolini's Italy, she courted danger every step of the way. As the war entered its final stages, she faced off against the most brutal of forces—Germany's Intelligence Service, the Abwehr.

The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

By Maryka Biaggio,

What is this book about?

Celebrated model Toto Koopman had beauty, brains, and fame. Born to a Dutch father and Indonesian mother, she took up the life of a bon vivant in 1920s Paris and modeled for Vogue magazine and Coco Chanel. But modeling didn’t satisfy her. Fluent in six languages, she was adventurous and fascinated by world politics.

In London she attracted the attention of Lord Beaverbrook, the William Randolph Hearst of England. She soon became his confidante, companion, and translator, traversing the Continent and finding herself caught in the winds of impending war. Beaverbrook introduced her to influential people, including a director at…


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