A little jellyfish delivers an important message in Julia Seal’s timely picture book, Bloom. Julia answered our questions about her book.
Luna is an adventurous jellyfish who loves to roam the oceans. She always returns full of stories to tell her friends about the amazing things she’s seen (but not always understood!) However, Luna starts to notice that the ocean is changing and when she returns to her friends at the coral reef they are gone! I hope that children will engage with Luna’s fun, inquisitive character and learn about the balance of the ocean through Luna’s journey to find her friends.
Jellyfish are unusual protagonists – how did you approach the illustration to give them character and make them distinctive?
Jellyfish are such beautiful creatures to draw, so colourful and luminous! I wanted to capture their beauty but give each individual jellyfish a distinctive personality too. Real jellyfish don’t have eyes like ours (or a brain, heart or bones!) but I felt it was important to give Luna some facial features and expressions to help engage children in the story. The bloom of jellyfish she meets at the end are quite cheeky, rebellious characters who cause all sorts of mischief to get the humans’ attention, and hopefully this comes across in the playful illustrations. Although the book has a serious message to share, I also wanted the mischievous jellyfish to keep it fun.
There’s a strong environmental message to the book – how hard is it to maintain a balance between informing children of the impact of climate change, and giving them a sense they can make a difference?
I think children are much more aware of environmental issues nowadays, so it’s important to keep the message hopeful and encouraging, as well as informative. In the first draft of the story, the ending focused on children being the future and the hope of change as they grow up, but as the story developed, I felt that it would be more empowering to show how children can make a difference now. The book is a great starting point for conversations about biodiversity and the way humans are affecting the balance of nature. Told through the humorous antics of the jellyfish bloom, I hope it will encourage readers to realise that everyone can make a difference.
The book uses friendship as a theme to the story. Was that your starting point for the story?
The story was actually inspired by an article I read in The Guardian newspaper, ‘More masks than Jellyfish – Coronavirus waste ends up in the ocean’. In response to this article, I drew an illustration of a lonely jellyfish surrounded by disposable masks, which floated eerily in the water like fish. However, after much research, I discovered that far from being lonely, jellyfish were actually blooming in these polluted conditions and these blooms were causing all sorts of trouble around the world! So although the theme of friendship remained central to the book, the story totally changed direction!
Do you have a favourite spread in the book, if so which one and why?
I love the spreads at the end of the book where the rebellious jellyfish take action to warn humans about the changing ocean. They turn up at the beaches in huge blooms, they weigh down fishing nets and they block up power plants! These three spreads were great fun to illustrate, full of colour and character! But ultimately, they are my favourite spreads because I find it fascinating that blooms of jellyfish are really causing these problems around the world – they have actually been blocking up the cooling water intakes of coastal power plants in Scotland, Sweden and Japan! Their increased presence is acting as a real life warning to us that the ocean is out of balance.
Bloom is published by Sunbird Books, 978-1503762848, £7.99 pbk