Captain Starfish

Written by: Davina Bell

Illustrated by: Allison Colpoys

For Ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Social-Emotional Learning, Anxiety, Fear, Courage.

Summary:  This book is about a young boy named Alfie, who gets That Feeling when he has to do something new.  Alfie gets That Feeling when he has to participate in running races, at birthday parties, or do something he doesn’t feel brave enough to do.  This year, Alfie is leading the Underwater Dress-Up Parade as Captain Starfish.  The night before the parade, Alfie’s parents tuck him into bed.  Alfie has underwater themed nightmares, and wakes up feeling not brave enough to be Captain Starfish.  Alfie’s mom comes into his room and he tells her “I can’t.  Please don’t be angry.”  Alfie’s mom isn’t angry, and tells him to get dressed.  They are going somewhere special!  Alfie’s mom takes him to the aquarium, where everything is shimmery and beautiful. Alfie sees a starfish, but that makes him feel worse about missing the parade.  Then, Alfie sees a clownfish for a split second before it hides again among the coral.  Alfie connects with this shy fish, and talks about it the entire way home.  “Sometimes clownfish need to hide away.” his mother says.  “People too.” says Alfie.  Alfie decides to dress as a clownfish the following year for the Underwater Dress-Up Parade, and the last page of the book is Alfie onstage in a costume.

This book is a tender look at social anxiety in children.  Alfie’s parents do not push him to  interact with his peers when he feels uncomfortable, instead encouraging him to feel brave enough to do things like go to a friend’s birthday party or lead the parade as Captain Starfish.  Adorable illustrations and relatable content, would definitely recommend for talking about fear of new things to young children.

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever felt That Feeling when doing something new?
  • How do you think Alfie feels when his mother is not mad that he doesn’t want to be Captain Starfish?
  • Why do you think Alfie connects with the clownfish at the aquarium?
  • How do you think Alfie feels at the Underwater Dress-Up Parade onstage at the end of the book, when he is dressed as a clownfish?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Talk about bravery as a group.  What are some ways that students show courage?  How could they help others feeling anxious or scared about doing something like lead a parade?
  • Have your own Underwater Dress-Up Parade!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

davina bell Davina Bell is a writer and editor from Western Australia. Her short stories and essays have been published in various journals and anthologies, including Best Australian Stories. For six years she was an editor at Penguin Australia in the Young Readers Division, where she was lucky enough to work with some of Australia’s most talented creators of books for children. Davina’s first novels for middle-grade readers were published by Penguin Books as part of the hugely successful Our Australian Girl series. Works of historical fiction, they follow a year in the life of a ballerina growing up in Perth during World War One. Her first picture book, The Underwater Fancy-dress Parade, was published by Scribe in 2015 and is illustrated by the award-winning book designer Allison Colpoys. In 2016, she has picture books coming out with Scribe, Penguin and Allen and Unwin. Davina is currently living in the south-west corner of Australia on the edge of a vineyard, writing and freelancing. She regularly talks at schools, universities and festivals around the country about writing and publishing.

Allison ColpoysAllison Colpoys is an award-winning book designer and illustrator, and a lover of pattern and typography. A previous Senior Designer at Penguin Books Australia, she now works in-house at Scribe Publications, and freelances through the Jacky Winter group. Allison’s first illustrated picture book, The Underwater Fancy-dress Parade, won two Australian Book Design Awards, an Australian Book Industry Award, and has been shortlisted for the CBCA’s Crichton Award for the Best New Talent.

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