The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade

The perfect picture book is a precise blend of perfect text, perfect illustrations and, the sometimes overlooked ingredient, perfect production. When these elements combine exactly as they should, the result is a book that you want to hold, that you want to read over and over, that your hands can’t help but run over each page. We’ve found such a book…

The first thing that strikes you about The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade by Davina Bell and illustrated by Allison Colpoys is the restricted but eye-catching colour palette – shades of blue contrast against white and striking neon coral. Embossed silver fish on the hard book cover shimmer, providing irresistible tactile appeal.

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It’s the story of Alfie, a young boy who gets that unsettled feeling in his stomach when he anticipates being the centre of attention. With a fancy dress parade at school looming, Alfie is becoming increasingly apprehensive:

“It was the same feeling he’d had before the running races, when he was sure that he’d come last. It was the same feeling he’d had before Antoinette’s reptile party and he was worried about musical statues. It wasn’t a nice feeling.”

Rather than insisting he face his fears, Alfie’s parents are empathetic, giving him the time and the space to understand his feelings.

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The story has many endearing aspects, notably that Alfie’s fears are very normal and children reading the book will be able to relate to him. I also like the fact that to a large extent, Alfie’s fears aren’t resolved on the final page. Instead, he is simply a tiny bit more comfortable with the challenges that are ahead. As a parent of a ‘worrier’, I know that there aren’t simple, quick solutions to anxiety – every day can throw up new challenges, just as Alfie experiences, and Davina Bell’s gentle story acknowledges just that.

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The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade is suitable for children aged three and over. Find it in all good book stores or online at Book Depository.

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Katrina Whelen

Katrina studied planning and design, did the hard yards working in a big office building and then traded it all in for a relaxing (!) life at home with four children. She now fills her time with writing, completing a degree in genetics and taxiing her children around Melbourne to their various sporting commitments (not necessarily in that order).

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