33 easy World Book Day costume ideas you can pull together at the last minute

It’s the annual event that creates a mixed reaction among parents – World Book Day.

While some revel in the opportunity to recreate their child’s favourite book character, others face the day with dread.

This year’s event takes place on Thursday, March 4, and with less than a week to go, you might be wondering what character your child can go as, or how much it’s going to cost.

With most children still home learning, they’ll be showing off their costumes online, while some schools have rearranged the date until next week when all pupils will be back in together.

Whenever you’re doing it, you have nothing to fear, as we’ve been taking inspiration from the fabulous yet simple creations our Manchester families sent to us in recent years, to help you come up with some easy costume ideas.

They won’t involve any sewing, won’t cost too much to cobble together and most importantly won’t cost you a fortune to create.

It’s surprising what you’ll find lurking at the bottom of the wardrobe when you need to get creative.

Devon Birkett dressed up as Roald Dahl’s The Enormous Crocodile and Paige Birkett as Belle from Beauty and the Beast, both from Walkden
(Image: UGC MEN)

If you’ve already got a princess or character costume, there’s usually a book character there somewhere – like Devon Birkett, who dressed up last year as Roald Dahl’s The Enormous Crocodile and his sister Paige, who went as Belle from Beauty and the Beast.

But if you’ve not got something to hand then take a look at our guide to hassle-free costumes…

Gangsta Granny

This one’s been a favourite over recent years and is pretty simple to pull off with a cardigan, a necklace, either white hair spray or a wig, and an eye mask you could easily make yourself.

Some team it up with a walking stick or even a zimmer frame if someone will lend you one for the day.

There’s an online guide to making the costume here, which comes with a template for making granny’s glasses and a guide to making your own wig.

Sienna Shepherdson, aged 11, attends Markland Hill School in Bolton and is dressed as Gangsta Granny
(Image: UGC MEN)

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Probably Roald Dahl’s most emulated World Book Day character is Matilda – the little girl with special powers and a love of books.

And you don’t need much to make it work. A denim dress, denim shorts and tights, or dungarees will do the job. Finish it off with a red hair ribbon and a copy of the book and you’re there.

Layla, aged 5, as Matilda

Bruce Bogtrotter

Also from Matilda is the character Bruce Bogtrotter – the one punished for eating the headteacher’s chocolate cake by being force-fed the entire thing.

Three-year-old Laurence Lowrey pulled it off brilliantly last year and you can do the same with just a white top and a whole lot of cake. Shouldn’t be too difficult persuading your child to eat cake for breakfast now should it!

Laurence Lowrey, aged 3 as Bruce Bogtrotter from Roald Dahls Matilda.
(Image: UGC MEN)

Harry Potter

Ah, we can’t have World Book Day without everyone’s favourite wizard Harry Potter.

And if you haven’t got the full cloak, then an all-black outfit would do, perhaps adding a bit of Harry’s Gryffindor house colours of scarlet and gold.

Team it with a pair of round black glasses, or draw them on if you have to, as well as the lightning scar and the job’s a good ‘un.

You can easily make a wand from a cardboard tube, or even a stick from the garden, and you could create your own potion bottle with stick-on label.

Felix Chan, aged 6, as Harry Potter

The Elves and the Shoemaker

This one was done brilliantly last year by Beau Valentine-Russell and twin sisters Emme and Belle and it’s a great one if you’ve got a few children at the same school.

You can be as elaborate as you want but it would work with a shirt, tie and tape measure for the shoemaker and you could make some stick on ears for the elves and give them a few accessories of their own.

Beau Valentine-Russell, aged 9 and Twin sisters Emme and Belle, aged 5, dressed up as The Elves and the Shoemaker
(Image: UGC MEN)

Demon Dentist

David Walliams is another author whose characters are often recreated by pupils.

Demon Dentist has been particularly popular over the last few years, with Izzy Gent, from Hadfield, among those to dress as the evil character.

Any all white outfit would work for this one, perhaps splashed with some fake blood or red food colouring.

It’s the face paint that makes it work – with just red, white and black needed – along with either white hair spray paint or dry shampoo, which also does the job.

Izzy Gent, aged 11, from Hadfield dressed as the scary Demon Dentist from the David Walliam’s book
(Image: UGC MEN)

Charlie Bucket

Perhaps one of the easiest creations of all is Roald Dahl’s Charlie Bucket.

Just plain clothes, messy hair and your very own Wonka Bar or golden ticket, which you could easily make yourself.

If you want to make it even easier there are loads of free Wonka Bar printable templates online, so you don’t even have to get the felt tips out.

Gill Willman’s Charlie Bucket

Mr Stink

Another Walliams favourite is Mr Stink, pulled off here by Layton Warren, from Blackley.

Some scruffy clothes, perhaps a tatty old coat and a ‘Mr Stink for Prime Minister’ handmade sign is all that’s needed.

And they don’t even have to have a bath the night before if you want some true pong to accompany the outfit.

Layton Warren, aged 10, from Blackley is dressed as Mr Stink from the book by David Walliams
(Image: UGC MEN)

Angelina Ballerina

Many little ones might already have their own ballet costume so Angela Ballerina is another easy one to opt for.

Just a tutu and headband or bow would be enough to make it work if you’ve not got the whole kit and caboodle.

Rebecca Robinson’s daughter Sophia as a ballerina

101 Dalmatians

There’s no costume required for this one – just a white T-shirt and a black pen to make the doggy dots.

If your child doesn’t mind face painting then you can do that too, like 10-year-old Yousef Chowdhury did here.

He went as Dalmatian number 57 and was accompanied by his sister Safah, who dressed as Moana.

Yousef Chowdhury, aged 10, is dressed up as 101 Dalmatian, Dalmatian number 57 and his sister Safah Chowdhury, aged 7, dressed up as Moana.
(Image: UGC MEN)

George’s Marvellous Medicine

Again this one’s more about the accessories than the clothes themselves so you might need to get a bit crafty.

George Annette, from Salford, made all sorts of wonderful creations to tie round his neck as George Kranky from George’s Marvellous Medicine. His sister Emily made for a fabulous Gangsta Granny.

Emily Annette, aged 5 as Gangsta Granny and George Annette, aged 9 as George Kranky from George’s Marvellous Medicine, both from Salford
(Image: UGC MEN)

The Paper Dolls

World Book Day wouldn’t be the same without Julia Donaldson’s characters in the mix and this one’s a very simple one to recreate.

The Paper Dolls features just that – so you can your own paper dolls – and wear a simple dress and cardigan as the little girl in the story.

Lucy Filmore’s daughter as The Paper Dolls

Pippi Longstocking

The biggest challenge with this one is the hair – pull of those sticky up plaits, draw on some freckles if needed and you’ve got Pippi.

She’s known for her bright, colourful outfits, with stripy socks or tights if you have some, and you could always get some orange hair spray paint if you want the true redhead effect.

Triin Knowles’ daughter Nora, four, as Pippi Longstocking

The Scarecrows’ Wedding

Another Donaldson favourite is The Scarecrows’ Wedding – a great one if you have two children to dress up.

It’s the boots and hats that make this one work, with as much straw as you can shoved into both.

A dress for Betty O’Barley and dungarees or shirt and pants for Harry O’Hay, and they’re ready to plan their perfect wedding.

Dani King sent us a photo of Gracie and Noah, as The Scarecrows’ Wedding

The Boy In The Dress

What could be simpler than The Boy In The Dress.

Whether it’s their sister’s or friend’s dress, most boys can find someone willing to offer them a frock for the day. Shoes might be a bit trickier, but any old flats or trainers would do the job.

Some clip-on earrings and a bracelet or necklace would help them pull it off too.

Scooby-Doo’s Daphne and Velma

Bright clothes essential for this one – Courtney-Leigh Williams and Lacey Williams did a brilliant job emulating Scooby Doo’s Daphne and Velma.

With glasses and a polo neck for Velma and a headband and neck scarf for Daphne, the pair look ready to solve some mysteries – helped by their gigantic magnifying glasses of course.

Courtney-Leigh Williams as Daphne and Lacey Williams as Velma

Shaggy from Scooby-Doo

Another Scooby-Doo character that’s easy to copy is Shaggy.

Lindsay Roberts’ son Jack made it work last year with just a Scooby teddy, a green T-shirt, some drawn on stubble and a handmade box of Scooby Snacks.

Lindsay Roberts’ son Jack, eight, as Shaggy

Captain Underpants

Freddie Butler went all out with the Captain Underpants costume, but you could easily recreate this with some white or pink clothing underneath some – yes you guessed it – underpants.

Just don’t forget to put some undies on the bottom layer too!

Freddie Butler as Captain Underpants

Mrs Hinch

OK, so she’s not an actual book character but she does have her own book out, so you know.

And as everyone’s favourite cleaner Mrs Hinch is so easy to copy, we’ll let it slide.

Poppie Blackwell made the perfect Mrs Hinch with her marigolds and caddy full of cleaning gear.

Poppie Blackwell, age 8, as Mrs Hinch

Mary Poppins

Gaynor Ellis’ daughter made a fabulous Mary Poppins with her costume, but you don’t have to splash out on becoming the much-loved nanny.

A smart dress – navy ideally – or a white shirt with black skirt and a red bow is all it needs, along with that trusty umbrella and bag of course.

And it’s all about those hair buns and hats. Hobbycraft has created a video showing you how to make your own hat from cardboard, as well as the parrot umbrella handle and red bow.

Sophie from The BFG

The BFG himself is a big hit for World Book Day, but if you don’t fancy creating those big ears, this could be an easier option.

Sophie is a very simple character to recreate. All you need is pyjamas or a nightie, some glasses and your own tub of ‘sweet dreams’ and you’ve got your very own orphan.

Leah Louise Bielby sent us a photo of her daughter as Sophie from The BFG

Miss Trunchbull

She’s the formidable headteacher of Matilda’s Crunchem Hall Primary School and Miss Agatha Trunchbull is a pretty easy one to go as for WBD.

She takes on many guises, the Olympian shot putter among them, and a theme taken by Diane Richardson’s daughter.

Diane Richardson’s daughter as Miss Trunchbull

Or there’s the school attire – a belted suit or coat – a look pulled off fabulously by Salford City Academy Principal Melanie Haselden, who terrified children as she took on the full character role for the day.

Whichever you choose, the thick monobrow is a must for this one.

Salford City Academy Principal Ms Haselden came into school in full character as Matilda’s ‘Mrs Trunchbull’ and it was a great all-round effort from the staff at the Academy too!
(Image: UGC MEN)

Tracy Beaker / Stick Man

We’ve got a double dose here with Jacqueline Wilson’s character Tracy Beaker and another of Julia Donaldson’s favourites Stick Man.

You’ve probably got something that’ll work for the Tracy character, but the denim jacket works well and big curly hair would help.

And if you don’t have time to make your own cardboard creation for Stick Man, then brown clothing will work just as well. Stick a few leaves on, add a bit of brown face paint and you’re done.

Emma Louise Roberts sent us a picture of her Tracy Beaker and Stick Man

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

It’s mostly school clothes you’ve probably already got for this one, with just shorts and white top needed.

Even the poorest of drawers could probably make the face for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but if you’re really struggling you can simply go online to get a printout.

Sarah Baldwin’s son Lewis, age 7, as Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Room on the Broom

You don’t even need a full witch’s costume for this to work – just a hat and the book would do, or a hat attached to a headband like Isabelle’s wearing here.

If you have a dress it’ll look better but if not, it’ll work with black leggings and top.

You can easily make a handmade broom and if you’ve got any teddies of characters from the book – like the dog, cat or frog – you could take those along too.

Isabelle, age 3, the witch from Room on the Broom

Oliver Twist

Step back in time a bit for this one but it’s not hard to create your own Oliver Twist.

Shorts and a tatty shirt will help, as will a flat cap.

And you can always make your own ‘boy for sale’ sign like Beth Brocklehurst’s son Eddie did here.

Oh and don’t forget a bit of dirt on their face too.

Beth Brocklehurst’s son Eddie, age four, as Oliver Twist


A special kind of sticky up hair will help when it comes to creating Tintin, the character created by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. But there’s always hair gel to help with that.

A blue jumper and brown culottes, or some other cut off trousers will do the trick, along with some formal shoes.

Try to find a white dog teddy if you can as Tintin was always accompanied by his white Wire Fox Terrier Snowy. I think you could get away with a different breed though!

Kate Elphick’s son Tom as Tintin

Where’s Wally?

There’s always at least one Where’s Wally in school on the big day.

A red and white stripy top and hat does the job – as worn by Donna Hannigan’s son Brogan below – but you could always draw these on if you’re struggling to find one.

And if you can’t find any round red glasses, or don’t want to buy any, just make some from red pipe cleaners and they should last the day.

Donna Hannigan’s 10-year-old Brogan as Where’s Wally. They had to decorate spoons the same as their book characters

Billionaire Boy

Another Walliams favourite is the popular Billionaire Boy and it’s pretty simple to create your own Joe Spud.

Julia Gallagher’s son went as the character in his last year at primary school, wearing a golden hat and with ‘money’ falling from his pockets.

Either buy some pretend notes or make your own and stick them over your child’s clothes. You could also buy a fake gold medallion to put around their neck, or make one at home.

Julia Gallagher’s son as Billionaire Boy in his last year at primary school

Manchester City

If all else fails there’s always the trusty football kit. And if you think there isn’t a book character wearing a City kit then think again.

Seven-year-old Riley wore his kit to go as Jack from When I Grow Up I Want To Play For Manchester City.

And you can get the same book for Manchester United, or other teams too, so it doesn’t even matter where your allegiances lie. Maybe take the book along just in case.

Riley, age 7, as Jack out of When I Grow Up I Want To Play For Manchester City

What is your child dressing up as for World Book Day? Do you have some other simple costume ideas? Let us know in the comments here or share your ideas and photos on our Manchester Family Facebook page.

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