Saturday 3 January 2015

The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade

The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade by Davina Bell, illustrated by Allison Colpoys (Scribe Publications)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 9781025106206
Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Alfie gets ‘that feeling’ the day before he is to take part in an Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade. It’s not clear what ‘that feeling’ is – anxiety or lack of self-confidence – but Alfie’s experienced it previously when faced with participating in running races or a game at a party. Both times he’s escaped having to participate. With his parents’ encouragement he tries to overcome the feeling but he’s not convinced he can cope.

At night his sleep is disturbed by a sea-life nightmare and in the morning he tells his mother he can’t possibly go to the parade. Instead, Mum takes Alfie to an aquarium. There the small boy sees a clownfish which emerges from a coral forest. This small creature gives him the confidence to decide that in future he too will face the world.

The message of hope and how a problem is resolved is so understated in this picture book that it might not be obvious to a youngster unless he or she has a parent who can explain that even the smallest creature can stand out from a crowd.

The cover of the book and the interior illustrations seem old-fashioned with a limited palette of greys, blues, brown and fluorescent orange. Children will most likely find humour in a child dressing as a starfish to go to parade, an octopus wearing a small hat and a boy carrying the ocean (and a giant whale). The targeted readership is children aged 3 to 7 years.

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