A visit to the aquarium changed everything for me. It made me realise that I had to go on a mission to help protect our oceans and to raise awareness of their problems.

Let me start at the beginning.

I’ve been writing children’s books for the past seven years. For a while Tovi the Penguin captured my heart and I wrote stories about his adventurous life. It never crossed my mind to write a book about protecting the oceans.

That was, until that day I visited the Paris Aquarium.

About 2.5 years ago, I was working on a counting picture book for children: the book connected numbers to sea creatures. I often went to the Aquarium to do research. One time I happened to go with my family. That day, the Paris Aquarium was putting on a show about plastic pollution and asked the children if they would volunteer to help clean up the plastic in the sea. My daughter raised her hand. I was very touched that she wanted to help protect sea creatures.

At the same time, I was curious. I came home that night and researched ocean pollution. What I read, shocked me to the core. I had tears streaming down my face. But, straight away I also knew what I had to do: I had to link my counting book with environmental issues, and help children believe that there’s something they can do about ocean pollution. In the end, the idea focused on exactly the same thing as the show at the Aquarium: the kids needed to help the sea creatures! So the book became “123…who’s cleaning the sea?”

From then on, I focused my artwork around conservation and raising awareness of environmental issues. At my first book blurb, I said I was only a mum who worried about our future on our planet. But today, inspired by Pat Smith – aka Action Nan – I would say I’m an activist who protects our planet with all her heart and artistic power. I started to do school visits to give talks about plastic pollution, help ocean conservation organizations with my artwork and discovered other ocean explorers.

My journey continued: after watching a talk by William Winram, I created a heart-shaped image of sharks to express the need that we have to protect these incredible predators. That image later got shared on social media by “Word Ocean Day” and IOC-Unesco for “World Ocean Day”. Ellen Cuylaerts‘ beautiful images of stingrays and their diamond-shaped bodies also inspired me to add a diamond-shape form in the background of one of my drawings.

Around the same time, my youngest daughter kept saying “Good night mummy – diamond, star, heart!” just before going to bed. All of this helped to form the idea of my second ocean book: Diamonds, Hearts & Sea Stars! – a picture book about shapes found in the ocean.

Having an idea for a book doesn’t necessarily mean you know what you’re going to write about though, and it took me a while to figure it out. We were in our first weeks of lock-down when I was invited to a podcast interview by Dave Cornthwaite. I listened to the other speakers on the podcast. Matilde Tomat’s words, an Italian eclectic existential psychotherapist, writer, and artist, ignited a spark inside me. “Motivation is just a reminder of why you want to do it”, she said and “happiness is just a mood. The only sense of happiness is within ourselves and you can only find that in the wonder that a child has”.

I had been so busy trying to help others over the last months that my own writing and the reasons why I started fighting ocean pollution in the first place had started to fade away. Listening to that podcast shifted my focus back on how I could help protect our planet and what I needed to do. I started writing, writing, writing, and slowly it all came together.

I wanted to write a book that connects children to nature, and I thought the best way to do so is for them to discover nature and the incredible sea creatures that are part of it.

The book is a collection of nine poems. Each poem is connected to sea creatures and to a shape. The shape can be something the sea creature does or a feature within it. The book really is about discovering, learning, and protecting.

Since that day at the Aquarium, I felt it was my call to protect our oceans and I have been on a mission ever since.

Come and join me!

Amazon bestselling and multi-award-winning author Janina Rossiter brings her passions together in her work: painting and illustrating children's books. As an illustrator and author, Janina was inspired to write "Diamonds, Hearts & Sea Stars!" and "123 Who’s Cleaning the Sea?" because of her concern for our environment. She is passionate about fighting climate change, protecting nature, and keeping the oceans free from plastic and other pollutants. Education is the key to understanding how each of us can make a difference. Our future depends on our actions. As an artist, she feels happiest when recreating images of the ocean in her paintings. “I hope that through my art and my love of the sea, I can make my voice heard and make a difference.