Friday, February 3

Dressing my son as a book character required the hide of a rhinoceros | parents and parenting

B.Before I go any further, I want to say I love reading. My son loves reading. And World Book Day is, I presume, meant to promote reading, which is an unassailable good. That said, the practice of manifesting this love of reading through a fancy-dress costume is not one I cherish.

Last week, like millions of other parents, I had to do precisely this.

I’m not a naturally arts ‘n’ crafts-type person and, unlike seemingly every other parent, I don’t have a hamper filled with fancy-dress outfits, any of which could be repurposed into a literary allusion.

Whenever I see other people posting their kids’ laboriously constructed outfits, I wonder how long they’ve been planning this and what support they’ve received from the estate of famous authors to do so. I, on the other hand, get a text about World Book Day two days before it arrives, and immediately forget what books are, and how clothes work.

Luckily, his favorite new book is a retelling of Rudyard Kipling’s How The Rhinoceros Got His Skin, with illustrations by Miles Kelly. My son likes it because its central message is: ‘Rhinos have no manners’ and, because he also has no manners, this allows him to do unmannerly things while screaming: ‘I have no mannnnnnners!’

We were glad to have a creature to aim for, since it’s hard to dress up as a book character. A lot of the more recognizable characters are very difficult to recreate. I’m not against just buying a Gruffalo or spaceman costume, but we didn’t have the time. Also, most protagonists in books are just regular people, which you can’t do.

It’s all well and good to know I’m within my rights to send him off as the spitting image of the little boy in There’s a House in Mummy’s Tummy, but I can’t help feeling it’s against the spirit of the thing. I did entertain ideas of using the entire enterprise as a way to flog my own book by making a cutesy costume out of its premise; I dunno, maybe 10 dolls’ heads stuck to his jumper to represent my siblings, or an elaborately devised tableau of the Troubles stitched into a jaunty hat. This I could package in a jokey tweet, which would be cute, funny and an entirely mercenary bit of book promo, but my wife vetoed it, since she has a lot more class but, it should be remembered, fewer Twitter followers than I do .

Turning him into a rhino meant my wife painting a party hat gray so it would resemble an improvised horn. His thick rhino hide from him was recreated by off-white chinos and an inside-out jumper (with the labels snipped off, thank you very much). Finally, I painted a little watercolor of a rhino which he stuck to his chest, just like rhinos do in the wild. He didn’t look like a rhino so much as someone very much hoping you’d notice he’s dressed like a rhino, but we’d be happy if you didn’t mention it. Have you no manners?

Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Séamas O’Reilly is out now (Little, Brown, £16.99). Buy a copy from guardianbookshop at £14.78

Follow Séamas on Twitter @shockproofbeats

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