Book Week has been a major event in the school calendar since 1945, and in that time much has changed in the world of children’s literature. Books now compete with television, movies, apps and video games for kids’ attention, and their fictional heroes are just as likely to come from the screen as from the page.
Parents are increasingly facing the dilemma of helping their child choose a costume that is in the spirit of Book Week while avoiding tears and tantrums. While kids cause a ruckus to dress as their favourite superhero or Disney princess, parents are left wondering whether this is what Book Week is all about. Is it ok to send your kid to school as Moana or Iron Man? Do Spider-man and Princess Leia have a place in the Book Week parade?
Teachers and librarians are divided on the topic. While the origins of many superheroes lie in comic books, and Disney princesses in the fairy tales penned by the Brothers Grimm, children are not necessarily aware of these origins and may just see Book Week as an excuse to dress up, regardless of where the character came from.
With this in mind, Frances Jones, a teacher-librarian with 30 years’ experience, provides guidelines for her students’ costumes to ensure the meaning of the event isn’t lost in the excitement of dressing up. When celebrating Book Week at her school on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, “I always insist that the character is from a book. It can be from a book that is made into a movie, but not from a movie that then turns into a book. We are supposed to be celebrating Book Week, not Movie Week or TV Week!”
Lindy Batchelor, an author and librarian specialising in children’s literature at Warringah Library, doesn’t mind when kids bend the rules during Book Week. “I would prefer that they dress as characters from a book, however many movie characters now have books about them too. Even if they didn’t begin as a book, books have since been created about them.”
This sentiment is echoed by President of the Northern Sydney sub-branch of the Children’s Book Council of Australia, Wendy Fitzgerald, who believes that “Books and stories take many forms these days. I can’t see any reason why characters from TV, video games or movies should be excluded.”
Dressing up as less traditional characters like Batman or Superman also provides teachers with the opportunity to point out the origins of these characters in comic books and encourage kids to find other graphic novels that may pique their interest. “Kids need superheroes in their life,” Batchelor reasons. “If they like Spider-man now, probably in a few years they won’t, so why not let them use their imagination and interest in this character now?” It can often be difficult to get boys into books so any opportunity to encourage them to get into reading is one that librarians and teachers are happy to take.
But even if your child does choose a book character, how easy is it to find a costume? The crafty among us may be able to whip up a unique costume from scratch, but for many busy and working parents, this is not an option.
Fiona Featherstone is the head buyer at Australia’s leading costume retailer, CostumeBox.com.au. This year the online retailer will despatch over 15,000 costumes Australia-wide for Book Week, and the planning for this event began more than 12 months ago.
“Each year we work hard to source a bigger and better range of actual book-related character costume ideas for Book Week customers. The huge volume of movie and gaming related costumes we have sold for Book Week in previous years has always alarmed us and we feel that it is incumbent upon us to offer a great range of purely literary-derived characters to choose from” says Featherstone.
“I’m excited to say that this year, along with our ever-popular ranges of Harry Potter, Dr Seuss, Where’s Wally, Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland, we have developed exclusive new ranges of official Roald Dahl book character costumes, and a range of historical costumes from the popular Horrible Histories series of books.”
So whether your child chooses a homemade Captain Underpants ensemble, a Roald Dahl Matilda costume, or insists on being Batman again this year, Batchelor’s takeaway for Book Week dress-up day is one everyone can agree on: a fun day that ignites the kids’ imaginations.
For more great Book Week costume ideas, click here to browse our full range of Book Week costumes for kids and teachers.