Book Week 2016 Costume Ideas


A version of this article was originally published on Mumtastic, winner of the prestigious OMMA award in 2014, full of smart, practical parenting advice, inspirational ideas for the home, style solutions, and more.

Prue Theroux: The Cool Librarian
Prue Theroux: The Cool Librarian

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 child-care 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. To kickstart the literary celebrations, I’ve got ten quick costume ideas which can cover 50+ book characters for you and lots of suggestions from Costume Box, if glue-guns are not your thing 🙂

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, child-care 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.

'Audrey of the Outback' Book Week Costume
‘Audrey of the Outback’ Book Week Costume

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.

Each year we will see perennial favourite book character costumes such as pirates, 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. Of course, one of my most popular ‘costume posts’ still remains my ‘pirate costumes’ post here, and there are plenty of pirate costumes inspired by literary pirates; pirates just seem to be one of those perennially favourite costumes don’t they?! There is also a huge range of Book Week themed costumes here on Costume Box.

I particularly like the ‘colonial Australia’ themed costumes here, probably because there are just so many historical fiction books for young readers which I adore. Book Week Costumes Our Australian Girl

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 with my silver vinyl crown which has been used multiple times since for other royal costumes, see image below. ‘Princess Smartpants’, ‘Green Queen’ and ‘Ginger Green: Playdate Queen’ are also all great options.Book Week Costumes Crowns for Queens

Whip up a cape/cloak/shawl: 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’. A shawl (like those here) can be used to be a colonial girl from the ‘Our Australian Girl’ series, a most-excellent ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ or the witch from ‘Room on the Broom’. 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.Book Week Costumes Cloaks Capes and Shawls

Add 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, or you can buy a whole ninja outfit here for under $30. Ninja books ideas are below and you can click here to see a very fabulous ninja book party for more ideas.Book Week Cosumes Ninja

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’.

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 the Vet’, ‘EJ12’, ‘Dork Dories’, ‘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.  

Book Week Costumes Dinosaurs

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.Book Week Costumes Spies and Detectives

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.

Book Necklace for 'The Terrible Suitcase'
Book Necklace for ‘The Terrible Suitcase’

For more Book Week costume ideas see here and here. Most important of all is to embrace the chaos and fun that is the annual Book Week parade!

The Body Shop

Oxfam Shop



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  1. Hey Megan! I love the book necklace idea – definitely adding it to our EJ Spy costume!! Thanks for the tip 🙂

  2. I knew I could count on you for lots of dress up ideas! I’ll be bookmarking this post for future years too. Miss T (6) and her Billie B Brown obsession continues so she has decided the go as Billie from ‘The Midnight Feast’. PJs and a backpack – too easy. She is also insisting on taking a packet of marshmallows just like Billie and Jack had for their planned midnight feast. Something tells me the marshmallows were the deciding factor when choosing who to dress as! Hope you have a happy Book Week next week xx


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