News room: How to Celebrate World Book Day

How to Celebrate World Book Day by Jessica Barrah

Are you the kind of parent that remembers that it’s World Book Day only as your children are stepping out of the door in their school uniform? The boy next door is dressed as The Cat in the Hat and his sister is Pippi Longstocking in a ginger wig – and you suddenly have a vague recollection of a scrunched up letter from school about fancy dress. Well World Book Day is on 1 March- you have been warned! We’ve got some quick solutions for last minute costumes.

These days it’s easy enough to buy an outfit – there are racks of Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland and Willy Wonka costumes lined up in many large supermarkets. But do you really want to spend all that money, especially if you’ve got more than one child to kit out (and do you have enough time to rush there before school when World Book Day has slipped your mind yet again?)

If by any chance you don’t want to spend the rest of your week trying to create the perfect costume (then throwing your sewing machine and the outfits out the window when your children refuse to wear your dodgy efforts) then here are some quick and easy options.

1. What the Dickens?

Find some particularly threadbare clothes in the bag you intended taking to the charity shop three months ago, give them a few extra rips, cut off the hems and fray them. Then either rub a bit of dirt in your kid’s face – or just don’t make them wash off the breakfast gruel (porridge) around their chops. Ta dah! It’s Oliver Twist.

Alternatively, if your son is called Oliver, (and the chances are he might be, judging by recent ‘favourite baby names’ lists) just make him twizzle around like a demented fidget spinner or Tasmanian Devil for the rest of the day and forget the costume altogether.

2. Roald Rules

The master storyteller Roald Dahl created many weird and wonderful characters – and quite a few of them don’t require much of a costume.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

The above ’Oliver’costume would also work for a poverty stricken Charlie Bucket. Just add a ‘Golden Ticket’, or in this case, perhaps a ‘Silvery Ticket’ made out of tinfoil.

James and the Giant Peach

If your son is called James, or even if he isn’t, buy the biggest peach you can find in the corner shop on the way to school. If they don’t have peaches, perhaps a melon, or any spherical fruit would do. Or just stick a leaf on an basketball.

George’s Marvellous Medicine

Get your child to bring a massive saucepan, a wooden spoon, and the dregs of your kitchen cupboard
to school. Avoid bringing alcohol – or any nuts. Ask your mother in law to take your son to school for added effect, especially if she is wizened and evil looking.


Find a blue dress, a red ribbon, and ask your daughter to look unusually intelligent for the day.
Advise her to call her headmistress ‘Miss Trunchbull’ at every opportunity to stay in character – although it’s better if she keeps her talents for telekinesis under wraps.

3. Halloween Part II

Many halloween costumes can do double duty on World Book Day. If you have a witch’s costume, then again Roald Dahl comes in with The Witches, there’s Room on the Broom and Meg and Mog. Combined with a school uniform you’ve also got The Worst Witch and of course, with added lipliner scar and glasses, Harry Potter. Halloween black cats could turn into the Cat in the Hat. If you have some left-over halloween cobwebs (or haven’t cleaned your house since last September) then grab some black legging and a black t-shirt, stuff some old black tights with newspaper for extra legs and ‘Abracadabra!’ your child could be the most literate of arachnids, Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web.

4. Animal Magic

Lots of children have animal costumes already, or at least hats with ears, masks, furry gillets or fluffy onesies. Add a bit of facepaint or make a quick mask from a paper plate…and it’s the cast of the Just So Stories, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Sheep-Pig, the cast of Wind in the Willows, Beatrix Potter’s animal kingdom, almost any animal sitting on a rhyming object (Puma on A Satsuma, Puffin on a Muffin) from Oi Frog, Aslan from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe the tiger from The Tiger That Came to Tea, the mouse, or many other creatures from The Gruffalo.

But if that sounds like too much hard work then…

5. Last Minute Literacy

It’s five minutes till you have to leave the house, and it’s really too late to create anything particularly inventive with bits of cereal packet and elastic bands. But don’t panic – your child can still look literate if their costumes are inspired by these books and they:

  • The Boy in The Dress – Wear a dress (particularly effective if your child is a boy)
  • The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – Wear some pajamas. Preferably stripey. Again, more effective if your child is a boy.
  • Ballet Shoes – Wear some ballet shoes, and any other ballet paraphernalia.
  • Harry and His Bucketful of Dinosaurs – Bring some plastic dinosaurs in a bucket.
  • Diary of A Wimpy Kid – Look a bit weak and miserable.
  • The Very Hungry Caterpiller – Wear a green garden refuse sack and don’t eat breakfast.

We hope that’s been of use, and have a wonderful World Book Day!

Further reading:

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Written by
Jessica Barrah
Published on
Books, World book day, Celebrations, Dress up, Writing, Publish, and Self-publish