I wanted to dress up as a bookish character for a Halloween party last weekend. At a party a couple of years ago, I put together a last-minute outfit and went as Julian from the Famous Five series by Enid Blyton (complete with ginger beer). This year I wanted another homemade costume and was mulling over two possibilities – Mosca Mye (from the Fly By Night series by Frances Hardinge) and the Faraway Tree (from The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton) but tragically in the end it all came to naught on account of not having the time to work on anything properly (I ended up going as a pink dragon because I own a pink dragon onesie. I know).
But as I was researching potential fictional character ideas, I also considered some from Indian children’s books. So here’s a list of some fun fictional people to dress up as. These would be great for kids (or adults!) who celebrate Halloween, Book Week in school, or who’ve even just been invited for a costume party and want to be fabulously bookish!
MONSTERS AND RAKSHASAS
Karimuga – You can dress up as this friendly rakshasa who may have hairy legs, red eyes, purple skin and an enormous belly, but he also has a large yellow-toothed smile to greet friends with.
Bookasura – All you need to be this book-eating rakshasa is an assortment of heads and an armful of books (which you must nibble at regular intervals to lend an air of authenticity to the proceedings).
Moin’s monster – The hilarious banana-eating, silly-song-singing, bright pink monster with auto-rickshaw-horns as ears offers such fun possibilities for a costume.
Monsters from Monster Garden – This book is full of monster costume ideas – either Do-It-Yourself ones inspired by writer Jerry Pinto’s nonsense verse or colourful ones inspired by illustrator Priya Kuriyan’s monster gallery.
Vikram and/or the Vampire – Inspired by this modern, hilarious retelling of the ancient tale of Vikram and Betal, you can choose to dress up as the harried king Vikram who just wants to bring down Betal – the spirit who hangs out in trees and lives in and as dead bodies – and deliver him to a sorcerer. Or you can dress up as Betal, the aforementioned vampire-zombie hybrid. Or for more hijinks, incorporate both Vikram and Betal into your costume.
Miss Vee Nonie – Dressing up as Vee, the garlic-loving vampire girl, offers the perfect excuse to first make, then tote around several garlicky dishes to snack on through the day.
Kris, the vampire boy – Or you could dress up as a blood-hating, bread-loving vampire boy who is forced to go to school and mingle with human children. Carry lots of bread and tell all the humans that they smell like eggs.
OTHER FANTASY BEINGS
An elf from the North Pole – Three of the protagonists in When Santa Went Missing happen to be North Pole elves. Gilmore looks more like an old-fashioned elf with a belted tunic, tights and a long beard he tucks into the belt; Coral dresses in a snazzy black suit and thinks he’s an evil villain; Bean is the youngest and clumsiest and wears an alarming amount of scarves draped in every spare part of her body. Pick whichever one fits your mood (and outfit choices).
People and creatures from Madh – There’s a range of character costume options in The Magicians of Madh – including Chitralekha the Celestial Dancer, a griffon (with the appearance and appetite of eagle-lions), a Sprite, The High Priest of the Sun God, a Free Bow (an initiate Free Bow is a common criminal and a Free Bow is a deadly assassin – both offer their services for hire). Since there are no illustrations or detailed descriptions of this assortment of characters, you’re free to unleash your imagination when you’re figuring out what they may look like.
GIANTS, DINOSAURS AND ALIENS
The colour thief – A grouchy, grey giant with a grey dhoti, a grey vest, a grumpy expression and a net to steal all the colours from the world with.
The dinosaur-as-long-as-127 kids – You can choose to be the cheerful dinosaur who loves giving kids rides (and have fun figuring out how to incorporate exactly 127 kids into the costume) or you can be Adinasura, the wildly colourful demon who cursed the dinosaur instead (I mean if a dinosaur hid my book, I might cast a couple of curses too).
Oops, the alien – Oops, the time-travelling gurgle from outer space who intends to save Planet Earth from alien invasion, resembles a three-foot pumpkin – so that’s the costume you should work on.
Any sea creature Vanamala encounters – When Vanamala sets off to rescue her sister (who she accidentally sold) it leads her to an underwater world full of a variety of sea creatures (many of whom used to be humans). Choose any one to portray or dress up as the underwater kingdom with all the characters (including Vanamala) on display.
octopus sept-opus – This underwater superhero is an octopus with seven-and-a-half limbs whose accidental foray into a laboratory leads to a number of cool attachments to compensate for his missing half-limb. He spends his time foiling jewel heists and rescuing his friends from killer whales. It’s a costume idea which holds heaps of possibilities.
Gatila – This otherwise black cow is forever trying to paint herself in different colours so you could look into creating cow outfits which are either green, blue, black-and-yellow striped or multicoloured.
Squiggle – Squiggle’s woeful quest of trying to discover which punctuation mark she is ends with her finding out she’s a doodle. Outfit choices can range from a solitary Squiggle doodle, a page full of Squiggle doodles or one filled with different punctuation marks including Squiggle grinning in delight.
Toto the auto – If you’re feeling really adventurous, dress a toy up as Toto’s driver, Pattu, who you can carry on your head/neck/back.
COOL YOUNG HUMANS
Puchku – Exuberantly illustrated Puchku’s outfit is an easy one to put together with the added benefit of being able to carry a pile of books around and ignoring the world to read them to stay true to your character. You can also read the book for free here.
Janice – Janice’s outfit should be pretty simple – black buckled shoes, a blue dress (maybe with some flowers on it) and plaits in the hair. But dressing up as Janice provides an excellent opportunity to learn about another culture. Read the story here and go on a quest in search of purple plum candies, huge-ear-shaped black fungus, a gulmohar-flower-coloured lantern, scrumptious-sounding dumpling soup and baozi buns and mahjong-playing lessons.
Ari – All shy Ari wants to be is a lion in the class play. You can dress up as Ari pretending to be the lion. You need a paper bag for the lion head and a grey sock-mouse to wear on your hand. Growl at the sock-mouse and crawl around whenever you can.
Manya – Alternatively, you can dress up as fierce Manya who desperately wants to dazzle everyone by playing Shere Khan in her school’s adaptation of The Jungle Book. Wear a tiger costume and roar.
Neelu – Neelu has two ponytails on her head and dreams (and glasses) in her eyes who’s dying to make a fort out of the cardboard box, her mother’s dupatta, walking sticks, and a basket of fruit is an easy outfit to put together. Maybe you can try making a fort of your own.
A monster hunter – You can dress up as Abhay or Nitya who are prepared with a monster hunting kit in their backpack to aid their search of monsters as well as to store any evidence they stumble upon. Make your own kit to carry.
The princess with the longest hair – This princess and I share a name (albeit spelled differently) and I’d like to think that if I were a princess, I’d also get fed up of my long hair and give it away to random fishermen (to make nets) and birds (to make nests) and whatnot until I was happy and bald. A bald princess would also make for such a fun costume idea – or maybe a short-haired one for a tamer option.
Maharaja Icky – King Icky loves food and hates table manners so here’s your chance to dress up as a king with food-stained clothes and spend the day licking curry from your hand and juggling rosogullas whenever things get too quiet.
Princess Easy Pleasy – Accessorise your princess outfit with a suitcase (or cardboard aeroplane) filled with a cow, a chef cut-out, bedding, and an assortment of pet animals.
Ammachi of the lost glasses – A white dress, a pink dupatta, and a nearsighted squint are all the things you need to inhabit Ammachi’s character. For bonus points, carry a pair of glasses around that you can keep accidentally losing.
Ammachi of the amazing machines – This gadget-inventing, coconut-barfi-making grandmother is one of my favourite children’s book characters. A sari and large glasses should make for a good beginning but adding a tool belt and a helmet will complete the outfit so perfectly. Maybe even carry a plate of coconut barfi to chomp on. You can read the book for free here.
Ninja Nani – Another cool grandmother to join the list, you can dress up as the crime-fighting nani of Gadbadnagar
Captain Coconut – All you need to dress up your child as this bumbling detective is a pair of khaki shorts, a white t-shirt, a khaki shirt, bright red socks and a turban (a dupatta wrapped around the head will work too). Top it off by arming yourself with six bananas, a calculator and a vaguely perplexed expression.
All book cover photos were sourced from the publisher websites
Bookasura illustration from this review of the book on Indian Moms Connect
Moin’s monster illustration from the Duckbill blog
Monster Garden monster gallery from illustrator Priya Kuriyan’s blog
Adinasura illustration from this Behance gallery
Puchku image from here
Janice illustration from illustrator Kalyani Ganapathy’s website
Princess Easy Pleasy illustrations from illustrator Priya Kuriyan’s blog
Ammachi’s amazing machine illustration sourced from here