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Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle Delightful Children's Book Summary and Review

Updated on January 30, 2023
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Carolyn writes about children's literature for library, preschool, and homeschool settings. She has a BA in English literature.

Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle displays the artist/author's art skills at his finest in a series of underwater camoflouge images.
Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle displays the artist/author's art skills at his finest in a series of underwater camoflouge images.

Mister Seahorse Story Summary

Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle tells the story of a male sea horse's journey through ocean waters as he carries his young babies' unhatched eggs in a pouch on his stomach. This unique story describes the sea horse's style of reproducing and giving birth to young in a matter-of-fact style. A mother seahorse first lays her eggs in a pouch in Mister Seahorse's stomach, and after he journeys through the ocean he "gives birth" to live young who hatch from the eggs and swim from the pouch. This story is both a lesson in ocean ecology and a gentle reminder that fathers, like mothers, can play an important role in caring for and rearing their children.

The story of Mister Seahorse follows the colorful lead character through swishing, swirling sea waters to the place where he hatches his young. In each colorful image, Mister Seahorse's pouch grows bigger and bigger. In the meantime, the reader sees all sorts of underwater sea life in camouflage, and the title character meets many friends along the way, all males, who play a vital role in nurturing their young. Mister Seahorse floats calmly through the water and speaks politely and encouragingly to all the sea creatures he meets. In fact, Mr. Seahorse encourages everyone he meets!

This book alludes subtly to the nurturing roles that fathers can play with their young children, but also shows Mister Seahorse letting his young brood strike out on their own when the time has come. This book makes an excellent addition to other Father's Day selections, with its gentle tone, gorgeous, high-quality art work in subdued watery pinks, purples, greens, and blues, and the educational information shared about sea creatures' unique manners of reproduction.

The camouflage illustrations steal the show in this book. Sheets of clear acetate paper overlap the right side of a two-page picture layout with images of seaweed, coral, or ocean rocks that hide different types of ocean fish, such as pipes, rock fish, and leaf fish on the right-hand page. The effect of a pair of leaf fish hiding behind the seaweed is is all the more charming when the reader turns the page to read the text of the story and suddenly sees Mister Seahorse peeking out from behind the same seaweed. These camouflage vignettes are interspersed among Mister Seahorse's encounters with other ocean fish, fathers who are nurturing their own young in all sorts of different ways, such as building a nest, holding eggs in their mouth, or babysitting the newborn young. Perhaps if done by another author/illustrator, the camouflage art would seem a little gimmicky, but Carle pulls it off without a hitch.

One fish carries his mate's eggs on his head, while another carries eggs in a straight line on the underside of his belly. All the while Mister Seahorse encourages and praises the other fathers for their role in rearing their offspring.

This book is beautifully artistic, combining the ethereal subject matter of an underwater ocean scape with Eric Carle's signature-style collage art. One of over 50 books in Carle's publishing career, this book like many of his others, excites a feeling of wonder about the natural world. The cover of Mister Seahorse bears the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award medal, which Carle received in 2003 for over 25 years of significant contributions to children's literature.

A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle
A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle

If you liked this sea-themed children's book, you may also enjoy A House for Hermit Crab, another title he published that is full of aquatic animals. This book is about hermit crab's adventure finding a new home, and the friends he meets who help him. These two books would make a great gift combo.


  • Ocean life
  • Sea creatures
  • Marine Life
  • Seahorses
  • Animal reproduction
  • Fathers
  • Camoflauge
  • Art

Over in the Ocean
Over in the Ocean
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
Swimmy by Leo Lionni
Swimmy by Leo Lionni
Somewhere in the Ocean by Jeannette Ward
Somewhere in the Ocean by Jeannette Ward

Related Reading

Great children's books about ocean animals, oceans, and life underwater are just too numerous to list comprehensively here, but here are a few to get you started.

  • Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef by Marianne Berkes and Jeanette Canyon. The beautiful cover art on this book features a seahorse and babies emerging from it pouch.
  • The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister is the completely fictional story of a little fish who learns that sharing with his friends is more important than being beautiful and alone. This story is part of a series that features similar values-centered lessons.
  • Somewhere in the Ocean by Jeanette Ward. A rhyming, counting book featuring facts about sea creatures, including the sea horse and its babies.
  • Swimmy by Leo Lionni is the story of a tiny black fish who helps his school outsmart the biggest fish in the sea. The illustrations for this book are prints created from various household-items.

Other Recommended Titles by Eric Carle

If you loved the art and the simply-told story in this Eric Carle book, you will probably enjoy many of his other titles that feature appealing animals and original stories.

The Grouchy Ladybug is a humorous book about a ridiculously small bully and the lesson he learns when the other animals stand up to his empty threats. Read my review for more info by following the link on the title.

Animals, Animals illustrated by Eric Carle, features a collection of poems that are suitable for children by various authors. This lengthy book features poems and beautiful illustration of sea creatures and land animals.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See is a book about preschool, teachers, animals, and colors. Click the title to read my review.

Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother Too? Is another book featuring animals, but its central theme is that all animals have mothers, just like the young child reading the book. This book is a favorite Mother's Day title.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is perhaps Eric Carle's most well-known children's book, about a caterpillar who eats just about everything.

© 2010 Carolyn Augustine


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