Book week costume ideas: the coolest (and easiest) characters for 2023, according to booksellers (2024)

It’s supposed to be a bit of fun that reflects the love of reading but, despite rolling around every year, Children’s Book Week often inspires dread in parents tasked with pulling one or more costumes together.

Book week is now such a big deal that there are two children’s books about the event: There’s no Such Book by Jessica Dettmann, published last year, and Book Week Bear by Rory H Mather, which came out in July.

This year’s event officially begins on 19 August, with school book parades scheduled throughout the week. So we asked booksellers and reading advocates for their takes on the coolest, most recognisable, and, most importantly, achievable characters around.

Dharma the Llama or Macca the Alpaca

Book week costume ideas: the coolest (and easiest) characters for 2023, according to booksellers (1)

From: Llamas in Pyjamas and Macca the Alpaca by Matt Cosgrove
“Matt Cosgrove is awesome because he creates [printable character masks] for book week costumes that you can print off, ” says BookPeople’s bookseller of the year Rachel Robson, of Gleebooks. “It’s simply a case of your child dressing as they normally do and just whacking a mask on a stick.” Cosgrove’s characters are fun, recognisable and relatable – just use a mask, and add backpack or pyjamas pending preference.

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Cop and/or Robber

From: Cop & Robber by Tristan Bancks
“Tristan really appeals to the 10-14 market, and these are gritty action-packed stories,” says Fran Hancox at Escape Hatch Books. “They’re set in Australia, they manage to build tension and they’re relatable in that they’re not too far-fetched. He’s absolutely one of my go-tos for boys.” She says these characters are “a great and low-effort option for a couple of mates”: a black and white striped top, prisoner number on a sticker, and black eye mask or balaclava makes a great robber, while a visit to a discount store for some toy accessories can make up a cop costume.

Gem the Witch

Book week costume ideas: the coolest (and easiest) characters for 2023, according to booksellers (2)

From Little Gem by Anna Zobel
“Gem is the most delightful witch,” says former bookseller, editor and literary award judge Michael Earp. “A pointy hat and black smock are easy enough to source.”

Gem also has the vote of bookseller and editor Clare Millar, who says she’s a character with a lot of heart. “[She] shows that it’s OK if things are a bit scary and [that] adventure can be everywhere, even if things go wrong.”

Wolf Girl

Book week costume ideas: the coolest (and easiest) characters for 2023, according to booksellers (3)

From: Wolf Girl by Anh Do, illustrated by Jeremy Ley
“Wolf Girl appeals to both boys and girls – it’s the action and adventure, and that she’s with her pack of animals,” Hancox says. The popular series is about the “likeable” Gwen who is separated from her family in a war and has to rely on a host of newly discovered skills, and a team comprising a wolf puppy, a chihuahua and a greyhound in order to survive on her own. As a bonus, Earp says her character is pretty easy to put together: “She really only needs a dark green hoodie and black jeans. A stuffed yellow wolf [or] dog would tie it all together.”

Julian the Mermaid

Book week costume ideas: the coolest (and easiest) characters for 2023, according to booksellers (4)

From: Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
“It encourages readers to have fun with dressing up – to dress up using everyday things, as how they want to see themselves as a mermaid,” say Allyx Lathrope and Danica Beaudoin from Sydney’s Kunikuniya. “And not be worried about what other people think.”

To assemble this costume, all that’s required is a blanket or throw, and some faux greenery.

Frankie

Book week costume ideas: the coolest (and easiest) characters for 2023, according to booksellers (5)

From: The Spectacular Suit by Kat Patrick, illustrated by Hayley Wells
In what’s described as a “heartwarming celebration of individuality”, Frankie feels like all the party dresses she has on hand are not quite right for her birthday celebration. She craves the look of a fancy suit. Literary agent Jacinta Di Mase and youth literature advocate Danielle Binks both say the book reminds children that there’s a link between their “sartorial choices” and “embracing the concept of their identity and how they want to be in the world”.

A superstar athlete

Book week costume ideas: the coolest (and easiest) characters for 2023, according to booksellers (6)

From: Little Ash by Ash Barty and Jasmin McGaughey, illustrated by Jade Goodwin; Sam Kerr: Kicking Goals by Sam Kerr and Fiona Harris, illustrated by Aki f*ckuoka; or Nice Garry by Nathan Lyon and Michael Wagner, illustrated by Dave Williams
Nearly all the booksellers suggested an athlete as a go-to, recognisable character to dress up as – with Robson, Hancox and Mary Martin Bookshop’s Katherine Matthews saying that books by your child’s favourite sporting heroes are always popular among primary school students. It’s particularly easy because students are likely to have their own sporting jerseys/uniforms on hand from their weekly activities, so all you need is a home-made medal.

Book week costume ideas: the coolest (and easiest) characters for 2023, according to booksellers (7)

From: Tiny Tradies by Tami Sussman, illustrated by Tom Jellett; How to tackle your dreams by Fiona Hardy; A sprinkle of Sadie by Lana Spasevski, illustrated by Joanie Stone; and Samantha Ellen-Bound’s Silver Shoes series
Another recurring suggestion was a character that embodied your child’s hobby. Characters from Tami Sussman’s Tiny Tradies series just require a hard hat and some toy tools, while any dancer could utilise an existing outfit/uniform. Earp suggests adding a blue streak to your child’s hair and a prop mixing bowl to pull off Sadie’s look. Binks says “books about kids embracing their identities via outward projections of their hobbies” are always easy to pull together, and suggests Hardy’s character Homer, a footy player who also loves sewing and fashion.

Book week, at heart, is still “about inspiring the joy of reading”, Hancox says.

“The dressing up is just supposed to be a way of sparking their imagination. My hope is that through book week we’ll have kids discovering new books, new authors and a deeper love of stories.”

Robson agrees: “You don’t even have to go as a character anymore, it’s just about engaging with what you’ve loved.”

She cites the books about book week – There’s no Such Book and The Book Week Bear – as opportunities for children to simply print off the covers of stories they’ve read this year, pin them on and wear their reading lists to the parade.

And, if all else fails, Binks suggests sending your kid to the parade in their pyjamas with bed hair and a blanket, channelling the eponymous character from Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Book week costume ideas: the coolest (and easiest) characters for 2023, according to booksellers (2024)
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