Alfie wants to participate in the best parts of being a kid, from his friend Antoinette’s birthday party to the relay races at school. But his shyness keeps him from engaging. When Alfie wakes up with That Feeling on the morning of yet another big event—the underwater costume parade—his mom takes him to the aquarium.
There, Alfie meets a starfish who shines so boldly Alfie feels small. But suddenly, a tiny clownfish swims up to Alfie for a quick hello and retreats again. Alfie begins to understand that there’s a happy medium between hiding away and being the star, and that he needs to come out of hiding every once and awhile to make meaningful connections.
Alfie is worried about his starfish costume and the Underwater Dress-Up Parade he's "got that feeling." He's had it before. Once, fearing he'd come in last, he backed out of a race. Another time, on the way to a friend's birthday party and anxious about musical chairs, he asked his mother to turn around. Colpoys's stylish, silkscreen-style illustrations use contrasting shades of sea green, deep blue, and bright pink to represent both the real world and Alfie's rich interior life he dreams of menacing sea creatures and talks to the cowboys on his wallpaper. When Alfie decides that he can't handle the parade, his parents don't push. A consolatory trip to the aquarium introduces Alfie to a clown fish, whose timidity reflects his own. "Sometimes clown fish need to hide away," his mother observes. "People, too," Alfie adds. Stories about childhood fears abound, but first-time author Bell writes about a more unusual situation a child who shrinks from experiences that other children find pleasurable. With time, she implies, and with the unwavering support of parents, even these anxieties may wane. Ages 4 8.