The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade

Davina Francesca Bell, Allison Colpoys

The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade
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The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade

Davina Francesca Bell, Allison Colpoys

CBCA Book of the Year Award Winner (Crichton Award for New Illustrators) 2016

The day before the underwater fancy-dress parade, Alfie got that feeling… Sometimes it’s hard to be brave. Sometimes you get that feeling. Sometimes you’re just not ready… until, one day, you are.

From a dynamic new picture-book partnership comes the story of  Alfie and a big octopus wearing a tiny hat and the things you can only  whisper to the cowboys on your wallpaper.


This gorgeous picture book doesn’t whack you over the head with its exploration of social anxiety, but considers a sensitive boy’s feelings with empathy and subtlety. Faced with the fancy-dress parade, Alfie is getting that old familiar feeling and it isn’t a nice one. Parties, school events and other social occasions are worrying times for him and now, even when his underwater costume of a starfish is pretty good, he can’t summon the nerve to participate. So his mum takes him to the aquarium instead. But even there he can’t shake the heavy feeling of failure, until he sees a little shy fish poke his nose out from the coral and then promptly hide again and he recognises a kindred spirit.

I love that this book doesn’t come up with a neat, all-solved ending but takes you through Alfie’s fears, nightmares and his parents’ understanding responses with a companionable knowing. The theme is beautifully explored and Allison Colpoys’ illustrations perfectly capture his vulnerability. For ages 3–7.

Alexa Dretzke is a Children’s & YA Book Specialist at Readings Hawthorn.

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