World Book Day: five simple costumes anyone can make, even in lockdown

Donna Ferguson
·4 min read

It’s World Book Day in the UK and Ireland today, one many parents approach each year with a stomach-clenching sense of dread. I know, because I used to be one of them. I cannot sew, I am useless at craft and I am not the most organised parent in the world. Or even in our house.

But my daughter Flora is nine, and I’ve learned a few tricks over the years. Armed with just four essential items – a professional face-paint kit, safety pins, a stash of coloured card and ribbons – I can throw together a World Book Day outfit in minutes, using the clothes in my daughter’s wardrobe. Here are five options using things most of us will already have in the house, and a good daytime activity that will cheer up those still remote-learning in the UK.

The Queen’s Knickers by Nicholas Allan

Why we like this book: The pictures of all the different knickers the Queen wears for different occasions are so funny, “especially the emergency knickers which have a parachute,” says Flora.

The outfit: A fancy dress, with some knickers pinned on it. A homemade cardboard crown and some children’s jewellery.

Helps to have: Jewel and star stickers for the crown, plus the two key weapons in every disorganised parent’s World Book Day arsenal: coloured card paper in a wide variety of colours and safety pins.

Time it took to make: 20 minutes.

Flora’s verdict: “I enjoyed making and decorating the crown, and I liked dressing up with all of my jewellery the way a queen would. The knickers are a bit embarrassing, but also funny.”

The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak

Why we like this book: It forces you to say the most preposterous things and is lots of fun to read aloud. Flora loves the fact that it’s a picture book with no pictures. “It’s ironic,” she says.

The outfit: White clothes and a black headband, to represent a white page with black ink on it.

Helps to have: White face paint. Five years ago, at Halloween, I invested in a professional 12-colour palette of face paints, for £15. It’s still going strong and has helped me to transform Flora into a wide variety of non-human characters on World Book Day – including, memorably, a cute little Hungry Caterpillar. Worth its weight in gold.

Time it took to make: Less than 10 minutes.

Flora’s verdict: “I enjoyed having my face paint done and hunting around the house getting all of my white clothes together.”

Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig

Why we like this book: The illustrations are gorgeous and I like the way Angelina is determined to fulfil her dream of becoming a ballerina. “I like her because she’s a mouse,” says Flora.

The outfit: A dress with a pink twirly skirt (a ballet leotard would work equally well), and white tights to represent Angelina’s white fur. Pink-and-white cardboard mouse ears and a pink bow.

Helps to have: A bag of colourful ribbons, I have discovered, can be very useful in a World Book Day crisis. I get most of mine by cutting the little ribbon hanger loops off my dresses.

Time it took to make: 15 minutes.

Flora’s verdict: “I liked making the ears, and putting on my ballerina clothes was fun. But the ears are too big! They look a little like rabbit ears.”

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Why we like this book: The joy, for me, is hearing Flora laugh out loud when she reads it, over and over again. “It’s like a funny comic,” she says. “But it’s real life, not superheroes. It’s about stuff that actually could happen to somebody.”

The outfit: Super easy. White T-shirt, black shorts, white socks, trainers and a black backpack.

Helps to have: A printer and some string – the mask is free from Bookaid.org.

Time it took to make: Less than 10 minutes.

Flora’s verdict: “I liked wearing the backpack and the mask.”

Oi Cat! by Kes Gray and Jim Field (pictured top)

Why we like this book: Like its predecessors, Oi Frog! and Oi Dog!, the rhymes in this book never fail to make us giggle. “It’s very funny,” says Flora. “You learn rhymes you never thought of.”

The outfit: Black top, black trousers. Wrap the child in a bin bag if you don’t have these. Black ribbon tail, home-made ears and white paper tummy.

Helps to have: Face paints, ribbons, coloured card and eyeliner for the whiskers.

Time it took to make: 30 minutes.

Flora’s verdict: “I liked dressing up as a cat, because I could hiss at my dog, Rosie – and she didn’t like it, because I was a cat!” She also enjoyed making the ears, and hunting for black clothes and ribbons. “But the best thing was the face paint.”

Overall winner

“The Book With No Pictures costume was my favourite,” says Flora. “But I enjoyed doing them all. Let’s do it again next year!”