Never Mind the Author Workshops, What Shall I Wear on World Book Day 2024? wonders Griselda Heppel

It is March, and World Book Day approacheth… and I am delighted to find myself booked for the whole day. Christ Church Cathedral School, Oxford have asked for 3 workshops, one based on each of my books, to 3 different year groups, and I’m just hoping my voice doesn’t run out half way through the third one. I know this is nothing for many seasoned authors but I’ve never done quite so much in one day before and I’m wondering how to get into training. Talk more at home, perhaps, in the week up to Thursday, 7th March? (What, more than you do already? exclaims my husband. Hmph. Thanks for that.)
The Wind in the Willows
by Kenneth Grahame

One thing I do need to prepare, though: my costume. Dressing up as a favourite character in a children’s book is all part of the fun, apparently, but isn’t as easy as it sounds. Animals (Ratty in The Wind in the Willows, Reepicheep in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Kanga in Winnie the Pooh) are out, as far as I’m concerned, owing to complexity of costume and the difficulties of giving a workshop through a mouthful of fur.

By John Tenniel - Through the Looking-Glass, Public Domain,
On the other hand, I’m much too ancient for the human heroes and heroines of my favourite books; the last time I dressed as Alice in Alice Through the Looking Glass I was 7 years old, and my mother cleverly stuck red Sellotape in rings round my white tights to match the Tenniel illustrations. 

So, an adult human then… yet adults, strangely (not) aren’t the most inspiring characters in children’s books, usually playing walk-on parts or just being dead. Mrs Noah with her porridge pot in The Log of the Ark (impractical). The Professor in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (wrong sex). King Azaz the Unabridged, or the Mathemagician in The Phantom Tollbooth (see above re the Professor). 

The mothers in Carbonel, The Railway Children, Peter Pan, Little Women, The Famous Five (no one will know who they are). 

Just a walk on part for the mother in
The Famous Five by Enid Blyton
And definitely not one of those who gave birth to the main character in The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, Smith, The White Giraffe, Journey to the River Sea, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and many, many other books starring an orphan (um, guess why). 

No, if an adult has an exciting role in a children’s story, it’s usually to provide the necessary malevolence your young hero must conquer to win the day. The witch in Hansel and Gretel; Cruella De Ville; Mrs Trunchbull: all characters I have no desire to emulate.

A nose like two potatoes.
Nurse Matilda by Christianna Brand
And while I love the main character in Nurse Matilda, I don’t want to battle for my audience's attention in an ankle-length rusty black dress, wielding a big black stick and sporting a nose like two potatoes. 

Other, practical aspects need consideration: the weather is still jolly cold. No short sleeves and floaty materials, thank you (which excludes Tinkerbell and Titania – not that I, cough, had them in mind anyway). 

Nor am I the only one to think in this way. Searching for ideas online (you’ll be amazed how many companies have sprung up to cater for the World Book Day market), I was amused to find this adult Mediaeval Queen costume all but sold out. Clever teachers: those long sleeves and skirt can hide some cosy thermals underneath. 

 Heigh ho. I’ll find something, never fear.

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Sandra Horn said…
Thank you for this - it made me smile, remembering past school visits on World Book Day. I never dressed up, though. There was once a big hungry caterpillar at one school, hardly able to move and almost suffocating. A teacher... Also, lots of girls in those Disney princess dresses, constantly hitching them up, as they are not designed with small shoulders in mind. My favourite memory is of the boy who forgot he was suposed to be dressing up - a moment of looking crestfallen, then he picked up handfuls of straw (from Tattybogles galore), stuffed them in all his pockets and said, with a grin, 'I'm a scarecrow.' Magic!
What did you end up as, I wonder?
That's an interesting problem, though I suppose quite a good one for someone who has written children's books to have! I expect quite a lot of the likely characters have been completely overdone, witches etc and as you say some adults are almost invisible in children's books. I hope thought of something!
Griselda Heppel said…
Thank you both. I'm glad I made you smile, and I love Sandra's memory of a boy swiftly improvising as Tattybogle - that's the spirit!

As for my costume... Watch this space and All Will Be Revealed. Probably.

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