The Underwater Fancy Dress Parade – illustrated by Allison Colpoys and written by Davina Bell

The Crichton Award acknowledges the talent of an illustrator new to the Australian children’s book industry each year – so congratulations to Allison Colpoys.

Her work is adorably vintage – which lured me in straight away.  She uses a basic colour palette throughout the book –  royal blue, a greyish baby blue, orange, black and white, which is very effective for this sea themed story. It is intriguing to see the different effects and scenes she has created with this simple colour combination.

The front cover is instantly appealing because of its varied, interesting typography which really suits the story.  I found myself lost in the cover –  before you read it, you might assume that the story will be about a boy entranced by sea creatures, and although this may be true, it is revisiting the cover when you have finished the story when you can feel his overwhelm, almost claustrophobic, encapsulated by the ocean surrounding him.  Ambiguity always gives meaning an extra layer of depth.  Embarrassingly I even copied the stance of the protagonist on the cover just to be sure ! (Don’t tell anyone)

This book has received three other awards this year:

1. Australian Book Industry Award (ABIA) for Small Publishers’ Book of the Year. The book is published by Scribe Publishers (Melbourne and London). It is on display in the picture book section at the library where I work to acknowledge this award.  This is a great book to do displays and craft activities with.

2. Australian Book Design Association (ABDA) award winner for Best Designed Children’s Illustrated Book, and

3.  Australian Book Design Association (ABDA) award winner for Designers’ Choice Children’s/YA Cover of the Year.

I have focussed on the illustrations to acknowledge the CBCA award for Allison Colpoys, but I will say briefly that this story is based on a little boy who wants to get dressed up to go to a party but begins to feel quite uneasy about it and in the end can’t go through with it.  As parents we have all seen this happen to our children – very brave in the comfort of their own home but then reluctant and shy in the outside world.  This book lets the child reader know that’s okay and lets the parent into an alternate, lovely perspective of how to handle this situation with their child.

I highly recommend it and hope it is successful for both Allison, Davina and Scribe Publications.


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