In order to celebrate the launch of The Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature in March, we invited OUP staff to dress up as their favourite characters from children’s books. The result was one surreal day during which our Oxford offices were overrun with children’s literature characters, ranging from the Cat in the Hat to Aslan, from Pippi Longstocking to the Tiger Who Came to Tea, and from Little Red Riding Hood to the Very Hungry Caterpillar. It was a brilliant and brave effort by all those who attended. Particularly those who commuted to and from work in their costumes! Find out why OUP staff members chose their characters below:
Mister Magnolia had only one boot. A tale of sartorial challenge, unkempt hair, and joyful cheer in the face of adversity. It was strangely wonderful to dress up and be him for an afternoon, and let my cardboard trumpet go “rooty-toot”.
— Phil Henderson, Senior Marketing Manager
Where’s Wally reminds me of time spent with my younger brother when we were children. Aside from Tin Tin, it was probably the only book we shared in common! There was nothing more satisfying than finding Wally before he did. I’ve also always really loved the wonderfully hectic illustrations.
— Chloe Foster, Press Officer
The Very Hungry Caterpillar was one of my childhood favourites because I loved the big iconic illustrations, the colours and the different shaped pages in the book. It is a true classic, and it embodies three of my life’s greatest loves: art, books and food!
— Amy Jelf, Marketing Assistant
As a child, I loved the anarchic humour of Dr Seuss’s books – his playful use of language always made me laugh. Now that I have a daughter of my own to read stories to, I’m able to rediscover the books and revel in the words all over again. In part, I chose to dress as the Cat in the Hat because he is the ultimate mischief-maker; in part, it was because he is so nattily-dressed – who wouldn’t want to wear that striped top hat and red bow-tie?!
— Anna Silva, Press Officer
I first loved Mr Fox for his quick wit, cunning plans, and excellent banter. Rereading Roald Dahl’s tale of animal triumph in the face of adversity, I have also been struck by how – well – human he is. His fight is as much with his own ego as it is with the farmers; he struggles to balance his desire for glory with the needs of his family. He is a good friend, a kind father and a loyal husband but he is also vain, short-tempered and inclined towards self-pity. A truly fantastic fox – but one that is strongly relatable for all us messy people.
— Katie Stileman, Publicity Assistant
I chose to dress up as Max from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I loved the book as a child, and now I read it to my daughter, who loves it too. And I got to wear a big fluffy onesie! What’s not to love?
— Kirsty Doole, Publicity Manager
Along with The Demon Headmaster being one of my favourite books from my youth, I was involved in a theatre production alongside Terrence Hardiman (from the TV show) and Dave Benson-Phillips! At the time I was cast as a brainwashed, well behaved, zombie child and I thought this would be a good opportunity to experience the other side!
— Jack Campbell-Smith, Multimedia Producer
I read The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr about a thousand times as a child. I think what makes it so great is that, as with most children’s books, it is such a surreal story told in a brilliantly matter-of-fact way. I loved the tiger, who so politely asks if he can join Sophie and her mum for tea and then proceeds to eat and drink everything in the house (being in character also gave me the excuse to eat all the food around me!). My favourite bit is when they buy a very big tin of tiger food from the supermarket… just in case he calls again.
— Hannah Paget, Marketing Executive
I am not sure why Little Red Riding Hood came to me immediately the request came to dress up as a character from children’s literature, but it just felt right. I’ve always been a fan of wolves… and red capes!
— Kate Farquhar-Thomson, Head of Publicity
Pippi Longstocking was one of my favourite books as a child. Pippi is such a charismatic and contradictory character. She is unpredictable, brave and adventurous, rather naughty at times. She is very independent and lives on her own. She can stand up to anyone and defies adults’ authority – a true rebel! That’s what probably most appealed to me. I too always wanted a monkey as a pet.
— Anna Gell, Publicity Administrator
I have always admired the work of J. M. Barrie. I’d been looking for an excuse to dress up as Peter Pan for a long time and became inspired the night before the launch party.
— Simon Thomas, Content Marketing Executive, Oxford Dictionaries
I’ve wanted to be Aslan for as long as I can remember. He is unlike most literary lions in the sense that he is far from tame. In fact, he’s quite the opposite. He’s willing to be ferocious in his pursuit of a just and fair Narnia. Plus I got to wear a lion suit. Which fulfils a life-long ambition of mine.
— Daniel Parker, Social Media Marketing Executive
Which character from children’s literature would you dress up as if you had the chance? Let us know in the comments below. If this has made you nostalgic for the books of your childhood, keep a look out for the #OxCompChildLit hashtag across social media platforms for more from this book.
All photos by Jack Campbell-Smith for Oxford University Press.