The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade: A Book Review

“The day before the underwater fancy-dress parade, Alfie got that feeling.”

That “feeling”. I am all too familiar with that feeling. It comes before a performance. It comes before an event. It sometimes comes before we have to leave the house. It fills up the stomach and tingles in the chest (for me anyway).

I’ve watched my son as he had to deal with that feeling, while trying to find the strength in himself to do something new. Sometimes he manages, and sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes he’s ready, and sometimes he just needs a little more time. And aren’t we all like that at some point?

Davina Bell’s debut picture book, beautifully illustrated by Allison Colpoys, features a little boy named Alfie who often doesn’t feel brave enough to do certain things. The thing that touched me most in the book is the way Alfie’s parents support their son no matter what, always giving him the time and space he needs, while trying to inspire him ever so gently, until Alfie is ready.

With highly sensitive children, there is a lot of anxiety towards anything new or anything that risks being overwhelming. I hear many parents say they will back off and let their children take all the time they need, and I hear others say they push their little ones into situations that make them uncomfortable, hoping they will be forced to deal with things the way other kids do.

And then there are parents like Alfie’s parents, who will neither just sit back and wait, nor push their child into a new situation. They will respect the fact that their kids need more time than others, and they will subtly encourage them to try new things, without ever making them feel guilty about the way they are.

The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade does just that. It doesn’t preach. It doesn’t ever insinuate that Alfie is wrong or weak or “not normal”. It simply inspires little boys and girls by showing them it’s okay to get that feeling. It’s okay not to be brave all the time.

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