World Book Day, which is coming up this Thursday 7 March, was designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and is observed in over one hundred countries globally.
Which is all very commendable but… It can feel like a mixed blessing for parents. I don’t know about other countries, but the usual approach here is for schools to invite children to “come dressed as your favourite book character”. This presents something of an annual headache; one that increases as your offspring grow older.
It was easier when mine were smaller – the usual literary suspects came into play, Cat-in-the-Hat, Alice in Wonderland (by way of Disney…), Pippi Långstrump, Charlie before he won the Chocolate Factory… Or, in a time-pressed panic, there was always that witch costume they wore for Halloween (Winnie the Witch? Roald Dahl’s The Witches?), even a generic “Princess” (of somewhere).
As they get older though, they get more picky:
– I know, the Matilda costume you wore at Brownies.
– No, everyone has seen me in that, and it’s loads too babyish anyhow.
– Your Hermione costume then, the one that cost a fortune for the Gryffindor robe?
– I’ve gone off the books. And there will be millions of Hermiones. Anyway, I wore that for Harry Potter Day…
– Okay, the Princess Leia one that—Ah no, that’s a film. (Though I swear, a lot of the costumes are inspired by the movie versions of the books in any case).
Finally agreed: black leggings, black turtle neck, boots and (faux) leather jacket, a braid to the side, plus the purchase of a cheap toy bow and arrow and a Mockingjay badge courtesy of Mister Bezos’s Emporium of Curiosities and Items You Didn’t Know you Needed, and tah-dah: Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games.
– But I haven’t read it Mum. It says ‘favourite character’!
– Okay shush, never mind—we’ll watch the film over the weekend…
So who would I be if adults dressed up for World Book Day?
Well, I doubt I’d make the grade as one of the ‘good’ parents found in literature – the angelic Marmee in Little Women, for instance, the morally upright Ma & Pa Ingalls, or the firm-but-fair Weasleys in the above-mentioned Harry Potter series… But never mind: I expect I would take the opportunity to leave my ‘parent persona’ behind for a day in any case.
It’s a challenge to pick a favourite literary character one would choose to become on a permanent basis – because even the most gifted, intelligent, beautiful, adventurous (etc.) of them have complexities, issues, and challenges to overcome – in their backgrounds or in their foretold futures. And some of them live in historical periods one would not wish to swap with – not as a woman, at least.
But just for a short while? Perhaps I would take on the forthright passion of Jo March, the self-possession and quiet dignity of Jane Eyre maybe, or the wit and gusto of Moll Flanders. More contemporary, the literary gifted and (ultimately) independent Lenù in Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend? Or maybe I should take the opportunity to be a man for a few hours?
In the meantime, which literary character would you be for a day?
Image: Comfreak on Pixabay