For the last four World Book Days, my daughter has gone to school dressed as Alice. This is not because she particularly likes the Alice books. In fact, she hasn’t read the Alice books. It’s because I am a terrible parent and every year I forget about World Book Day until my daughter walks out of the front door in her usual uniform, spots her classmates spilling down the street in Paddington duffels and Where’s Wally? bretons, turns tail and demands I rectify my terrible oversight. And every year I do so with a blue pinafore, a jar with “Drink me” hastily scribbled onto it, a white Miffy the rabbit and a headband. Alice. Done.
My children tolerate this lackadaisical approach to dressing up because neither of them like it that much. There has never been much demand for me to create effigies in papier-maché and homestitched felt. Early in my parental career, when it still seemed important to make an obvious effort, my son’s preparations for his first World Book Day mostly involved him bargaining me down till I’d agreed to a costume that he could play football in. In the end, he was Charlie from Charlie and Lola: a normal boy in normal jeans and a normal sweatshirt, on which he permitted me to ink a meticulous serif C in fabric pen. This was my greatest success until the year he got a tiger onesie and realised he could roll straight out of bed and off to school as a Winnie-the-Pooh character without even getting changed.
Of course not every child is lucky enough to have a parent as supportive as me. Some mums and dads insist on trying, and apparently some children are reckless enough to encourage them, judging by the joyful tiny faces that you’ll see on Thursday morning peeping out from elaborate outfits. There’s still a minor sheen of snobbery around the store-bought outfit – the box-fresh Harry Potters and the satin-stitched Disney princesses bespeaking cash-rich time-poor parents (or rather mothers, since it’s usually mothers who have to soak this up) who just won’t make the effort to build a bespoke Iron Giant exoskeleton for their apparently-not-that-loved-after-all little darling. My resentment on this point, however, really stems from my own incompetence and the fact that I secretly think anyone who is organised enough to get to the shop is probably cheating.
And when the real DIY marvels show up, I start to get very bitter indeed. Who are these people who apparently live to make me look bad? I’m looking at you, the parents who conjure up matching red bodystockings and blue wigs to turn their twins into Thing One and Thing Two (having had the wherewithal to plan their theme years in advance by producing twins in the first place); the people who put in long hours painting patchwork panels of cardboard to turn their child into an Elmer (so they can become gaudy sludge on a wet walk home); the ones who have constructed a precise replica of Katniss Everdeen’s bow, so their child can slaughter the school guinea pig and kick off a revolt against the head at breaktime.
All of you are showing me up with your craft and joy and creativity, and you must be derided for it. Or, alternatively, defeated. This year, then, I’m going to go big for my daughter. Lyra Belacqua, with functioning airship and animatronic bear companion. Too-Ticky, one of the connoisseur’s Moomin characters, with a portable cast of invisible shrews. Gregor Samsa after a heavy night (mobility might be a problem, but at least I could spare her carrying her snack fruit by embedding it in a sensitive spot on her cardboard back).
Or: Alice again. Done.
|World Book Day|
UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day 2012 poster
|Official name||National World Book Day|
|Observed by||All UN Member States|
World Book Day or World Book and Copyright Day (also known as International Day of the Book or World Book Days) is a yearly event on April 23rd, organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), to promote reading, publishing and copyright. In the United Kingdom, the day is recognized on the first Thursday in March. World Book Day was celebrated for the first time on 23 April 1995.
The connection between 23 April and books was first made in 1923 by booksellers in Catalonia, Spain[Book 1] The original idea was of the Valencian writer Vicente Clavel Andrés as a way to honour the author Miguel de Cervantes, first on October 7, his birth date, then on April 23, his death date. In 1995 UNESCO decided that the World Book and Copyright Day would be celebrated on 23 April, as the date is also the anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, as well as that of the birth or death of several other prominent authors. (In a historical coincidence, Shakespeare and Cervantes died on the same date — 23 April 1616 — but not on the same day, as at the time, Spain used the Gregorian calendar and England used the Julian calendar; Cervantes actually died 10 days before Shakespeare died.)
World Book Day by country
To celebrate this day, Cervantes's Don Quixote is read during a two-day "readathon" and the Miguel de Cervantes Prize is presented by the Spanish king in Alcalá de Henares.
In Catalonia, Spain, St. George's Day has been 'The Day of the Rose' since 1436, and involves the exchange of gifts between loved ones and respected people—it is analogous to Valentine's Day. Although World Book and Copyright Day has been celebrated since 1995 internationally, books were exchanged on 'The Day of the Rose' in Catalonia since 1929, in memory of Cervantes.
In Sweden, the day is known as Världsbokdagen ("World Book Day") and the copyright aspect is seldom mentioned. Normally celebrated on 23 April, it was moved to April 13 in the year 2000 and 2011 to avoid a clash with Easter.
Main article: World Book Day (UK and Ireland)
In the United Kingdom, World Book Day is held annually on the first Thursday in March, as 23 April sometimes clashes with Easter school holidays; 23 April is also the National Saint's Day of England, St George's Day. A separate event, World Book Night, organized by independent charity The Reading Agency, is held on 23 April.
United States of America
In Kensington, Maryland the International Day of the Book is celebrated with a street festival on the Sunday closest to April 26.