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Ideas for children, parents and teachers to explore and discover New Zealand’s sea life


for children

paddle-crabExplore and discover the New Zealand seashore, with At the Beach. In our book, we have chosen a few of the most common living things you will find. Ned has drawn pictures of them to help you recognise them and to show you where they live. Even if you don’t go to the beach very often, you can have fun playing I-spy looking for the animals in the illustrations. Gillian has written about what they eat (mostly each other) and how they survive at the beach.

be a nature explorer

There is a handy card published with the book that you can use to identify things. Take this with you when you go to the beach and find a way to keep a record of what you see. You could take photos, keep a notebook, or just send your Gran and Grandpa messages about what you’ve seen.

  • What does the beach look like at high tide, low tide?
  • What gets washed up in a storm?Untitled-5
  • Have you seen something eating another animal?


Questions and Answers on At the Beach

Gillian and Ned answer children’s questions about At the Beach.

Why did you want to create a book about the beach?
We both like going to the beach with our children. Gillian’s son is grown up now, but she always wanted to have a book like this for him. Ned’s children are just the right age for this book.

How long did it take to write and illustrate?
It took 11 months from when we started it until it was out in bookshops, about 7 months of that was spent on writing and illustrating.

shell-3How did you find the information for the writing and for the illustrations?
Going to the beach and observing creatures and the habitats, taking photographs to look at later, reading what scientists have written – in books and on the internet, and checking facts.

How did you decide what words to use?
Gillian spent a lot of time on writing and rewriting to get the words right. Once we were happy with the illustrations, Gillian went back and rewrote some of the text to make sure it fitted exactly with the illustration.

How did you draw and colour the illustrations?
Ned used pencil to draw the pictures, then scanned these into the computer. He coloured them in using a programme called Photoshop.

How did you decide what animals to include?
This was one of the hardest things. There were always more animals that we wanted to include. In the end we used the criteria that the animals needed to be ones that most children in New Zealand had a chance of seeing at their local beach.bug

Why isn’t there an octopus in the book?
We realise that along with rays and jellyfish, octopus are pretty popular animals. We didn’t include an octopus because they are so good at hiding we thought most children would never get to see one. Maybe we were wrong!

Which page do you like best?
That’s a hard question, we love the whole book. If we had to choose, Gillian really really likes the pages with the sea star, sea anemone and kina, because Ned’s illustrations show the texture of these animals so well. Ned would pick the cover if you pushed him to choose.

Is there anything you would change?
Not really, except perhaps putting in an octopus!

How did you become an illustrator?
Ned was always drawing pictures at school, when he left school he went to Art School and to Design School.

seaweed-4How did you become a writer?
Gillian wanted to be a writer since she was 8. She worked in a publishing company learning about publishing, editing and creating books, which has really helped her become a writer.

What advice would you give to young writers and illustrators?
Keep drawing, the more you draw the better you’ll get. Same goes for writing, the more you write the better your writing will get. It is also a good idea to look at other people’s artwork and read other books and think about how they draw or use words to get ideas about what works.

How did you come to work together?
Our publisher at Craig Potton Publishing suggested we work together on At the Beach. It worked out really well and now we have another three books –  In the Garden, Under the Ocean and In the Bush.

Untitled-4What’s your favourite thing about going to the beach?
Ned says, I love how every time you go to the beach and poke around in the rockpools, you find something new. Gillian loves rock pools too – once she saw a reef star chase a paua around in a rock pool.

Have you seen a ray?
Yes we both have. Gillian sees them at Pukerua Bay every summer. Ned saw huge rays round Golden Bay, Nelson.

Have you been stung by a jellyfish?
Yes Ned has, it really hurt.

What’s your favourite seafood?
Ned likes sushi, Gillian likes squid.

gillian candler – author

I live in Pukerua Bay. I love the rocky shore here and walk along the beach every day. There is always something different to see. I’ve explored the rock pools many times with my son. Once we went to the rock pools at night with torches and saw colourful wandering sea anemones and were amazed by the activity in the pool. I’ve seen some unusual sights, an octopus trapped in a rock pool, and a reef star chasing paua around in a rock pool. Once a southern right whale spent a day in our bay, and I’ve even seen orca hunting for rays in our bay.
I write a blog about nature:



Ned-Barraudned barraud – illustrator

Ned is a talented illustrator with a passion for sea creatures. His work has been published frequently in the School Journal, and he illustrated The Earthquake and the Butterfly (2012). He works at Weta Digital as a texture artist and lives in Wellington, spending lots of time exploring the seashore with his three young children.

If you want to see some of my other pictures you can visit my site:

for parents and teachers

The New Zealand coast is a great place for children to explore and learn about ecosystems. Here they can see:shell-1

  • that living things have different habitats, and have certain requirements to stay alive (for example, protection from waves, sun, wind; way of hiding from predators; certain kinds of food)
  • that there are important relationships between living things (who eats who? dead seaweed and empty shells provide shelter)
  • changes to the beach will affect living things chance of survival.

At the same time they can be learning to think like scientists by:

  • developing their observation skills
  • thinking about how living things can be named and grouped.Untitled-2

A couple of things to note about this book

At the Beach introduces some of the most common living things that can be found at the beach. There are many things that you and the children will find that are not in this book, you could use the internet, library, aquarium or museum to find out what they are.

At the Beach doesn’t use scientific names for groups of living things, for example, instead grouping shellfish by whether they have one shell, two shells, or many pieces of shell. There are many field guides available for older children and adults which use scientific terms, as well as websites.


reading the book

Here are some ideas for re-reading the book, things to look for and talk about and games to play.

  • What are the people in the pictures doing? What do you think they’ve found?
  • How have things changed between pages 10-11 and 12-13?
  • What kind of beaches do we go to? are they rocky, is there sand, are they mudflats?
  • Play I-spy or see which living things you can find in the pictures on pages 4-17?

The pictures in the book on pages 4-7, 10-11, 14-15 show the beach on a sunny day at low tide, the cross-sections on pages 8-9, 12-13, 16-17 are at mid-tide. Ask the children to think about where high tide might come up to in the pictures. What do they think the beach would look like on a stormy day? What would the creatures that live here do in a storm?

shell-2Talk about the names people give to animals and plants. What do they notice about them? Many describe the animal, eg red-billed gull, black-backed gull, papaka nui, or say something about where they live or their behaviour, sandhopper, hermit crab, matuku moana. Some living things have lots of different names eg Neptune’s necklace is sometimes called Venus’s necklace.


out and about activities

Untitled-1Before you go: Talk about the ideas on the imprint page (opposite the contents page) about staying safe and looking after the beach and its creatures. Talk about what other things might you do at the beach to keep safe and look after it?

Things to take: Binoculars, bucket, net, torch if you go when it’s dark, camera, sun protection.

Check tide tables and weather, it is easier to explore rock pools at low tide.

  • Take the card when you go to the beach to look for things.
  • Walk along the tide line looking for treasures and shells.
  • Take photos, draw pictures, keep a notebook.
  • Go at low tide in the dark and look in the rock pools with a torch (make sure you are familiar with the pools and the beach so you know if there are any dangers.)
  • Encourage care of the environment, join a beach clean up.
  • Visit a marine reserve or aquarium, or an exhibit at the museum (Te Papa) for more chances to see things that live at the beach.


indoor activities
Thinking about how things might be named and grouped – eg fish is used in lots of common names: jellyfish, starfish, shellfish, this book suggests that starfish are more accurately called seastars, and that jellyfish can be called jellies, what names could we use for shellfish? How might we group living things differently. Find pictures of things that live at the beach and group them in different ways.

At the Beach only has common living things, there are lots of other living things at the beach. You can find more in field guides designed for older children and adults, as well as on the internet. For example,

Design your own animal that can live in the sea or at the beach. Draw it and create a diagram. What is it called? What features does it have to help it survive? How does it protect itself? What does it eat? How does it eat? for online quizzes and


more information about the beach


curriculum links

Te Whariki: Early Childhood Curriculum
Strand 5: Exploration
Goal 4: Children experience an environment where they develop working theories for making sense of the natural, social, physical, and material worlds.

The New Zealand Curriculum: Science
Nature of Science
Investigating in Science, Communicating in Science

L1-2 Living World
Students will:

  • recognise that living things have certain requirements so they can stay alive
  • recognise that living things are suited to their particular habitat
  • recognise that there are lots of different living things in the world and that they can be grouped in different ways.

L1-2 Planet Earth and Beyond
Students will:

  • Explore and describe natural features and resources
  • Describe how natural features are changed and resources affected by natural events and human actions.Untitled-3
Classroom resources

For more information about the beach and for assessment and teaching ideas see: Building Science Concepts series: Book 21 Life between the Tides: sandy shores, mudflats, and rocky shores, levels 1-2; Book 22 Tidal Communities: Interdependence and the effects of change, levels 3-4 published by the Ministry of Education.

For a teaching activity about grouping rocky shore animals go to:

See for field trip ideas and resources.

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