There’s nothing like Book Week to instil dread into the hearts of parents around the country.
Not because we don’t love books, or reading. But because there’s usually a Book Week parade, and that parade is now regulated by more rules than there are Mr Men characters. Here are some I’ve heard about: no superheroes. No Disney characters. No characters from movies. No characters from books that were only made popular by movies.
With that limited choice, there’s then the screaming match civilised discussion you have with your child about what they are prepared to wear, versus how much time/money/sanity you are prepared to invest in their costume.
It’s a fine balance, so it’s hardly surprising that mistakes are made. The kind of mistakes that go viral and cause you to delete posts or close your social media accounts.
A high schooler’s book collates letters from famous Australians to their teenage selves. (Post continues after audio.)
But never fear, I’m here to save you and your child from a potential major faux pas. I’ve compiled this list of practical and simple suggestions, that will help your kid’s costume avoid national media attention, and me writing a column about you next week.
Book week is about books and kids, it’s not about you. Don’t insist your child dress up as something you want to see them in, and find a book that’s very loosely based on the character, or use an adult book. For example, I have been tempted to use Michael Jackson’s biography so my kid can dress as him and I can pretend the Prince of Pop is alive again for a sweet, brief moment… I mean, isn’t that the least I deserve for all that I do?
Um, no. It’s transparent, and even I’ll admit, a tad desperate.
So, don’t send your kid dressed in a burqa to make a political statement about Pauline Hanson.
Do not alter the colour of your kid’s skin with make-up, or shoe polish, unless the character is non-human. You’re better than that, and so’s your kid. You know, deep down, that skin colour is not a costume, and that a costume doesn’t have to be an exact replica.
My nephew dressed as Dumbledore one year; he was not a geriatric white male when he did. His outfit did all the talking.
Is this not the cutest Dumbledore you’ve ever seen?
Your kid can be Mowgli from The Jungle Book by slapping a wig on their head, whipping their shirt off and ditching their shoes. Easy.
You could also consider using a mask. My kid went as Weir Do from Anh Doh’s Weirdo one year. He wore a mask to look like the cartoon character. Other benefits to a mask over make-up are that they can remove the mask during the day, and they won’t come home with make-up smeared all over their face and clothes.
Don't mock things of cultural significance. This is tricky, because none of us are experts on every culture. Consider doing a quick interwebs search on what you’re thinking about. People respectfully exploring different cultures = acceptable. Ridiculing characters significant to other cultures = major douchebag parenting.
Think of it this way: The Bible may be a best-selling book that many children study, but parading around as Jesus is bound to offend.
Check out gorgeous baby Joey, whose Insta account is endless pics of her dressed up in dozens of national costumes, without an insensitive shot in sight.
Don’t sexualise your kid’s outfit. Don’t find your inspiration in the sexy Halloween section of the costume shop. It’s book week for children – think more Hans Christian Anderson than Christian Grey.
Check out some of our favourite book week costumes. (Post continues after gallery.)
If ever in doubt - JFGI. It’s 2017, the information is out there.
One thing I have noticed is that the tweens, who may have done quite a few parades in their times and are feeling uninspired, love to mix characters and genders. It’s a great idea, because it opens up more options for them. I’ve seen a lot of male Hermiones and female Where’s Wallys in recent years.
So, let’s see your boys dressed as Miss Trunchbull and your girls dressed as Mr Strong, and you might just get that national media attention – for all the right reasons.
Nama Winston is a writer and a recovering solicitor, who just wants us all to be nicer to each other. You can follow her on Facebook, here.