On children’s anxiety in a tender story that advices parents to be patient and supportive

Davina Bell, The underwater fancy-dress parade. Illustrations by Allison Colpoys

Printed 2015 by Scribe Publications, 32p


Anxiety and overwhelming emotional states are parts of children’s development. The purpose is not to eliminate these feelings from our children’s lives but to help them manage their fears and raise their confidence. There is always doubt when children deal with the unfamiliar or with the unknown but as parents we should have the capacity to make them trust their abilities and integrity.

When we moved to Australia there was a change in Ema’s behavior. Because she wasn’t speaking the language and she could not communicate she began to feel insecure and in her first weeks here she sometimes refused to go to child care. I explained her that isolation was not a solution and shortly she managed to make friends and become fluent in English.

Davina Bell does a great job. She manages to detail a little boy’s fears before a parade but she doesn’t turn it into a catastrophe and insists on parents being sensitive and compassionate.

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The day before the Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade, Alfie got that feeling…. It wasn’t a nice feeling.

He is nervous and worried about the event. He felt the same before the running race and before Antoinette’s reptile party. The physical pain cannot be prevented and his tummy hurts. Alfie didn’t sleep well either.

‘I’m not brave enough to be Captain Starfish’, he whispered to the cowboys on his wallpaper.

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Respecting his feelings, Alfie’s mother doesn’t force him to participate at the parade and takes him to the aquarium instead. Everything there is beautiful but the little boy still feels pressure and guilt, “the ocean felt as heavy as the world”.


The perspective changes when Alfie sees a shy clownfish that he identifies with. It is okay to be different and emotions are to be experienced not repressed, Davina Bell subtly suggests.

This is one of the few children’s books that do not have a happy ending but it is full of hope. The parents help Alfie deal with his fears and nightmares, explaining that there is always a next time.

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Complement this beautiful story with Maurice Sendak’s Where the wild thing are which deals with children’s anger and with Lemony Snicket’s The Dark, a book on fear of the dark.


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