Paula Xiberras

Davina Bell has been to Tasmania once and ‘absolutely loved it’, at that time she drove on the east coast marvelling at the seaside coves which to her resembled exactly what a place at the furthest ends of the world would resemble.

I am chatting to Davina about her new book ‘The Underwater Fancy-dress Parade’, an illustrative and collaborative effort (with Allison Colpoys), which refreshingly pitches to children that it’s okay to be scared.

Davina’s protagonist Alfie whose name means ‘elf’ or ‘magic counsel’ is in fact of afraid of the very magical process of dressing up and performing in the school play. The play is based on the theme of the sea, the vastness of which, perfectly acts as a metaphor for the vastness of Alfie’s burden of being afraid.

Alfie is taken by his Mum to a more contained version of the sea in the form of an aquarium where he observes the clown fish pop out and look around and then go hide again. This experience allows him to realise it’s okay to be fearful. To her credit Davina doesn’t end the novel on Alfie being completely cured of his anxiety. Instead there is the possibility rather than the promise of Alfie taking part in next year’s school play.

The book also celebrates holding on to the openness of childhood and Davina quotes an artist who was asked when he would stop drawing and he answered , when will you start drawing?

The book has hit a nerve with anxious children, of whom Davina was once one herself. Davina tells me of how she was often anxious as a child when travelling on the bus to pull the cord or press the button for the next stop because she didn’t like the idea of people looking at her. This anxious action often saw her miss her bus stop!

Davina did some research on what triggers cause the most anxiety in children. From which she found that spiders are children’s worst fears!.

‘The Underwater Fancydress Parade’ is out now published by Scribe.