World Book Day 2019

In which only son resists with all his might any attempt to suggest that school can be fun.


It was 7.30am on a Saturday. Only son opened his eyes briefly. “Mum, we should not make assumptions that dinosaurs are necessarily bad or assume that something is a shark when it could be a dolphin.”

It was a bit early in the day for philosophy, but I told only son that if I saw a fin in the water and I was in the water I was happy to assume shark unless proven otherwise – just in case. I asked him where that thought had come from, given he had just woken up. “It’s just something I was thinking about, mum,” he said. As you do.

I praised the whole don’t make assumptions outlook and proceeded to close my eyes and attempt to squeeze at least a few more minutes of sleepfulness into Saturday.

Only son got up and grabbed a copy of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. “Don’t you think you could move on to another author?” I suggested. He has read each and every one of Jeff Kinney’s creations about 25 times. I suggested Michael Morpurgo or Roald Dahl or David Walliams or anyone.

Only son was not convinced. I suggested Jacqueline Wilson. “I could read that at home, mum, but I couldn’t take a girl book to school,” he stated.

It was coming up to World Book Day and not even Jeff Kinney could convince him to take part. Plus Diary of a Wimpy Kid has no obvious links to this year’s theme: rats, cats and hats. Except, apparently, Diary of a Wimpy Kid wears a baseball cap in one book. We don’t have a baseball cap.

World Book Day came the day after daughter two’s 16th birthday. That meant I had to plan ahead. At the 11th hour I convinced only son to go as Bert from Ratburger. The costume looked simple enough – a red and white striped shirt, sunglasses and sideburns.

Problem number one: we had no red and white striped shirts or indeed any kind of striped shirt. Problem two: despite the fact that everyone had sunglasses just a few months ago, there is no discernible trace of them now. Like gloves in summer, they melt into the air. So there I was at around midnight on Tuesday, painting red lines onto a white shirt and seeking out sunglasses. It turned out we had one pair, but they made only son look like some sort of seventies gangster.

On Wednesday only son delivered his birthday card to daughter two. “Unhappy birthday, you stinka,” it started. There was a window in the front part of the card. When she opened it it contained a 5p coin wrapped. “It could have been five pounds if you behaved better”, said the card. Inside the card it stated: “You and I have not had a good year. This cannot continue. Improve your behaviour and you will have a better birthday card next year.”

Daughter two was highly amused, although it is very possible the card will not have the desired effect and may indeed encourage her to continue to rub him up the wrong way in future.

On Thursday only son headed out to school with sideburns stuck on, the seventies shades and the stripey shirt. I told him to stay away from rain because the paint would run. Only son looked at me, appalled that I had forced him to give into this ridiculous World Book Day lark. He slunk into school and I could see the sunglasses coming off the minute he passed through the gate. All I can say is that I tried.

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