One of the most exciting parts of The Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book Week each year is the book character dress-up parade which many schools, kindergartens and childcare centres host. Depending on glue-gun skills and tolerance to glitter, the Book Week parade costuming is either loved or loathed by parents and carers. Take it from a teacher-librarian – Book Week can be all kinds of fun.To kickstart the literary celebrations, I’ve got 10 quick costume ideas which can cover 50+ book characters for you!
What is Book Week All About?
Australia has a vibrant children’s literary community which produces some of the most outstanding children’s books in the world and the CBCA Book of the Year Awards recognise some of this exceptional talent each year as part of Book Week celebrations around the country in schools, kindergartens, childcare centres, libraries and bookstores.
The theme for the CBCA Book Week 2016 is ‘Australia! Story Country’ – a theme that invites us all to celebrate and share Australian stories with each other and with the world. Australia has a long history of Story and our stories represent who we are as a nation. Our stories come from our own indigenous people, from migrants and refugees who settle here and add to our cultural mix, and they come from us all – every one of us from all ages and walks of life. Story encourages our young people to think deeply, walk in the shoes of others and develop empathy for others and to experience the world around them in a creative form.
Your child will be reading all or many of the books which are shortlisted in the CBCA Book of the Year Awards in school throughout this term, and this is the perfect opportunity to follow up at home by adding some of these titles to your home library, or borrowing them from your local public library. Knowing a little about each of the books in the Book of the Year Awards means you will be able to have some meaningful discussions with your children about titles they are reading at school, which is perfect way to engage with your child, foster their love of reading, and grab some Book Week parade costume ideas.
Essentials for Costumes
Each year we will see perennial favourite book character costumes such as Harry Potter or Hermione, Thing 1 and Thing 2, Cruella de Vil, Madeline, Cat in the Hat, Where’s Wally or The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Ideas for these costumes are easily found online, so I’ve focused instead on some DIY costume props which will cover a multitude of characters, most of which are Australian. I’ve got a few of each of these items in my dress-ups box and they are pulled out over and over again for Book Week, birthday parties and at-home play.
Locate a crown: A crown made of metallic cardboard or metallic leather or vinyl covers book princesses and princesses, kings and queens. It can be the crown that Max wears in Where the Wild Things Are or the crown worn by The Snow Queen – as I was last year at my school’s Book Week, in my silver vinyl crown which has been used multiple times since for other royal costumes: Princess Smartpants, The Green Queen and Ginger Green: Playdate Queen are also all great options.
Print out a mask/ears or photo prop: printable props are the friend of a busy parent or the parent who finds out about the Book Week parade the evening before. A quick search online will bring up a plethora of printable options and I’ve used these for costume props for: Ruby Red Shoes; Pig the Pug; Fox and Fine Feathers; Olivia the Pig and Thelma the Unicorn.
Whip up a cape/cloak: Such a handy little item! From Bob Graham’s Max, with his superhero parents, to Will Treaty from Rangers Apprentice or Rowan from Rowan of Rin, capes and cloaks are always on show in Book Week parades. There is also the opportunity to be Isobelle Carmody’s famed Little Fur or a Prince Charming or Frodo or Legolas from Lord of the Rings. One of my favourite series of the last few years is The Mapmaker Chronicles and Quinn was a popular Book Week character last year with his cloak and maps.
Or some wings: whether they are made from paper plates, feathers, coat hangers or purchased – wings are a go-to costume accessory and they turn any dress or tutu into a fairy, angel or magical creature. Bob the Builder and the Elves is one of my all-time favourites but there are also options of The Christmas Angel, one of delightful the (cough, cough, splutter, splutter) colourful fairy book characters (I know you know the ones I mean) or April Underhill, Tooth Fairy.
Wrap some black fabric to Ninja: ninja’s are a perennial favourite Book Week costume and there is a multitude of books which support this fun costume idea. It’s a simple as wrapping a piece of black cloth around your head and adding a dressing gown if you so desire! Ninja books ideas are below and you can click here to see a very fabulous ninja book party for more ideas.
Everyday clothes for male characters: there is always a handful of young people who want to just wear their ‘normal’ clothes to the Book Week parade and fortunately it’s pretty easy to find a character to fit this request! Obvious ones are Hey Jack, My Life, Weir Do, Tom Gates, Timmy Failure, Don’t Call Me Ishmael or even Andy or Terry from the Treehouse series.
Everyday clothes for female characters: like above, sometimes young readers just want to wear their own clothes – and it also makes it easier for parents! One of my children wore pyjama bottoms under a skirt last year and went as Violet Mackerel (we added a ‘book bracelet’ and blue china bird (which Violet owns). There is also options like Juliet Nearly A Vet, EJ12, Dork Diaries, Judy Moody, Ella and Olivia, Clementine Rose and Netball Gems (wear your uniform!).
Stomp about with a dinosaur tail: you would be hard pressed to find a child that has not gone through a dinosaur book obsession and it is super easy to make a dinosaur tail from fabric. One of my children has now had two dinosaur parties, such is her love of roaring and stomping. She was Edwina the Dinosaur for her last party which you can read about here.
Hang some binoculars around your neck and pop on your backpack: lots of options here for Book Week costuming with detective books abounding! One of my favourites is Truly Tan, which we used as a birthday theme here, and Friday Barnes. There are so many detective or explorer stories so this one is super-easy.
And finally…the good old book necklace trick. Colour photocopy or print out a cover image of a book, mount it on card, punch some holes in it and add some twine. Book necklaces are actually super handy for all Book Week costumes as they help teachers and peers to easily identify characters and it makes for a truly literary parade.
For more Book Week costume ideas see here. Most important of all is to embrace the chaos and fun that is the annual Book Week parade!
More about wonderful books:
- 20 Really Good Book Series to Tempt Reluctant Readers
- 15 Books Every Girl Should Be Read Before Age 5
- DIY Book Nook for Your Kiddos
Images: Megan Daley / Supplied