A picture book to help children conquer their fears

Published on: 16 April 2015

Underwater Fancy-Dress ParadeAn interview with Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys, the author and illustrator team behind The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade

What is the message of The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade?

Davina: There are times when you just can't be as brave as you'd like to be, or as you're told you should be. Sometimes things that feel normal and easy for other kids will feel impossible to you. But that doesn't mean you're somehow wrong or not good enough.

It happens to everyone at some time in their life. And it won't always be that way. When you're ready, you'll be able to go down the slide or go to the sleepover party, and you'll forget why it was such a big deal. I promise.

Allison: There are so many! But the main one for me is that when the time is right, you'll be ready to conquer your fears. I'm a sensitive type of person, and I so related to 'that feeling' that Alfie gets - of shyness and hesitation and doubt.

It's a story about gradually coming to terms with the parts of yourself that feel different or wrong, and I think that's such an important message for children. I also have a niece and nephew who are both sensitive and very individual little personalities, and I could see how this story could really strike a chord with them in the future.

Davina, was the character of Alfie based on anyone you know in real-life?

Davina: Yes, there was a real-life inspiration! My friend is the aunt to a little guy called Saul, who used to stay at her house sometimes. He was petrified of her cat, which he used to have to pass by on the way to the bathroom at night. My friend used to hear him say to himself, 'Be brave, Saul! Be brave!' and that really resonated with me - how bravery and fear are such a large part of childhood in big moments and really small ones. That's where Alfie's story came from, I think - a desire to say to children that they are not as alone in their fears as they may feel.

Allison, what inspired the illustrations in the book?

Allison: So many things! Nature, vintage books, my niece and nephew, Melbourne (where I live), music and the work of other creators - artists, designers, illustrators, photographers, writers.

The sea creature theme was perfect for me. I grew up on an island at the top end of Australia, so the ocean was a big part of my life. I was fascinated by rock pools (they're like miniature universes!) and I used to daydream a lot about underwater cities. I deeply wished I was a mermaid.

Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade

Check out Davina and Allison's book

The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade

Author: Davina Bell Illustrator: Allison Colpoys

A useful book for children who suffer with anxiety or shyness, but the gorgeous style will appeal to those with artistic eyes too.

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