You Can DIY: Book-Inspired Kids’ Costumes for Halloween

Tina Princenthal, Principal Librarian, Central Library Services,
3 childrens book covers

A nightmare more terrifying than you can imagine…the party supply store on the eve of Halloween! The hordes of customers, the cries and screams of fitting-room meltdowns, flimsy costumes at horrifyingly high prices! Halloween can have a scary way of sneaking up on parents (and everyone else), but don’t pull the covers over your head yet. Your local library has all the tricks you need to ditch the pricey store-bought costumes and treat your kids to a good story too!

You don’t have to be a witch to get crafty and brew up your own costume at home. Here’s a list of several fantastic costumes, inspired by everyone’s favorite children’s book characters that you can create simply by using clothing and items from around the house.

For the more ambitious costume-creators, don’t forget that the library has dozens of books on costume-making while the Central Library’s Octavia Lab offers sewing machines and other creative machinery that you can use to really get crafty.

With a little creativity, here are some fun ideas to get you started!

You’ll be one cool cat in this easy costume. You’ll need a yellow shirt, blue pants, and red sneakers. Complete the look with some large groovy buttons (you can use colored paper in your favorite colors), cat ears fashioned to a headband and drawn-on whiskers. Me-wow!

Book cover for Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons
Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons
Litwin, Eric

“A told B, and B told C, ‘I'll meet you at the top of the coconut tree.’” This silly costume will have everyone learning their ABC’s. Start by wearing all brown, then make yourself a “coconut tree” hat by using a band of brown paper and lots of green paper leaves. Attach an alphabet of colorful paper or foam letters to your shirt and pants. Chicka Chicka... BOOM! BOOM!

Book cover for Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
Martin, Bill

You’ll be pig-ture perfect in this adorable costume. Pair a simple red dress with a pair of black and white striped socks/tights. Pin a white collar (use can use a handkerchief) and black bow to the dress for a little extra flare. Fashion some pig ears to a headband and you’re ready to go!

Book cover for Olivia
Falconer, Ian

All eyes will be on you with this creative costume! Collect random small objects from around your home (stickers, small plastic toys, playing cards, foam pieces, beads, buttons, pom-poms, whatever you can!) and attach it to the front of a t-shirt to form a wild collage. On the back of your shirt, write your riddle beginning with “I Spy…” and then list some items for other trick-or-treaters to find on the front of your shirt.

Book cover for I Spy: A Book of Picture Riddles
I Spy: A Book of Picture Riddles
Wick, Walter

This costume couldn’t be any easier or more adorable. All you need is a pair of overalls, a white shirt, and tennis shoes! Fashion a pair of mouse ears on a headband, craft yourself a giant cookie and give yourself some drawn on whiskers—you’re ready for a treat!

Book cover for If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
Numeroff, Laura Joffe

This costume is perfectly stupendous! (that’s a fancy word for very impressive). Get a fancy dress and all your most glamorous and superb (that’s a fancy word for excellent) accessories; sunglasses, hairbows, feathered boa, jewelry, ribbons, a crown, purse and some pretty shoes. As Nancy would say, “Oh, la, la!”

Book cover for Fancy Nancy
Fancy Nancy
O'Connor, Jane

A classic costume that will have everyone excited to find you at their Halloween party. The trick is to find a shirt with red and white stripes. If you don’t have one, consider making one using red duct tape on a white shirt. Add a pair of round glasses, blue jeans and wait… where’d you go?

Book cover for Where's Waldo?
Where's Waldo?
Handford, Martin

In this silly story, Camilla Cream comes down with a “bad case of the stripes” after trying to hide who she really is. You can get your own bad case by using face paint to give yourself colorful stripes on your face and hands. Consider adding colorful stripes to the sleeves of a white long-sleeve shirt to give the impression of having colorful arms too. Don’t forget a thermometer!

Book cover for A Bad Case of Stripes
A Bad Case of Stripes
Shannon, David

Here’s a costume easily done, it’s also quite a lot of fun. Make the Cat in the Hat’s signature headwear out of red and white paper. Dress up a long-sleeved black t-shirt with a red bow and add white fabric for your stomach. Draw on some whiskers and wear a pair of white gloves, if you have them. Now you’re ready to go play, enjoy yourself a Halloween Day!

Book cover for The Cat in the Hat
The Cat in the Hat
Seuss, Dr.