Monday, March 18, 2013

Book Week at Dulwich

All week long, our school has been celebrating 'Book Week'. Lots of parents volunteering to read, authors Cindy Savage and Neil Griffiths came in to talk about their books, a story-writing competition and the grand finale - 'Dress up as your favorite book character' on Friday! Book Week is an amazing way to encourage young readers, and to introduce parents to the immense variety of children's books that are available today. The Book Fair stocks favorites from my childhood - evergreen Enid Blyton and cherished classics like Anne of Green Gables and Oliver Twist - as well as the contemporary Harry Potter, Magic Tree House and How to Train Your Dragon series. Books have always been my weakness, and I am never able to resist buying a couple whenever the opportunity presents itself - this year, I got Little Women, which was missing from my collection, and a couple of Classic Starts for Manasi, who is growing to be quite the reader herself!

Dress up day was unquestionably the highlight of the week! Of course, deciding what costume to wear caused much bickering and squabbling in our little household. I'm quite sure my idea was the best, not to mention, the easiest - braid Manasi's hair, put her in an Indian dress, hand her a pot - voila, Shanti from Jungle Book! Ajey was holding out for one of the Disney fairy characters - preferably Tinker Bell! Manasi hated both our ideas - she was leaning towards Cruella DeVille, but lost interest after I told her that there was no way she was coloring half her hair white! Alice and Dorothy, apparently can only be blonde, so they were out, and so was Hermione! Jasmine and Mulan, though black-haired, are too fancy! The whole thing was threatening to end in tears, when I found an old dog-eared copy of Grimms Fairy Tales - of course, Little Red Riding Hood!

Like everything else, for costumes, this is China, you're in luck - you head to the costume maker with a picture of anything under the sun, and get your costume custom made! Here in Suzhou, the costume maker runs his business from a one room workshop, in a dingy back alley close to the glamorous Wedding Street - yes, the same place I bought my beautiful qipao a few weeks ago!! Anyone who needed a costume for Book Week ordered from here, and he had several beautiful costumes ready and waiting! For Manasi's costume, all we really needed was the red cape with the hood - but the picture we had showed a beautiful blue and white striped skirt, with a white blouse and blue waistcoat - so Manasi wouldn't settle for anything less than that!

Little Red Riding Hood
Friday morning began with a crisis - the basket that Red Riding Hood was supposed to carry was nowhere to be found! I suspect Manasi took it outside to collect flowers or leaves and then forgot it somewhere, but I held my peace and ended up emptying my sewing basket for her to carry as a prop! Disaster averted! Oh the problems we have! Bus drop-off was fun, seeing all the kids still fresh in their costumes! Of course, there were tears for the few who hadn't planned to dress up! The school even had a parade for the costumes - in the theatre, each class was called up on stage, and the children talked about their costumes! There were quite a few Harry Potters and Hermiones, and Red Riding Hood, Dorothy and Alice were also quite popular! Some of the costumes were really elaborate - one boy had gone so far as to get a Tintin haircut especially for the day! The teachers were all dressed up to - the standout costumes were Horton, Captain Hook and the librarian dressed as Cruella - yes, she had a wig with half white, half black hair!

Egyptian Day
It was all really fun - getting the costume made - with this tailor, your imagination is pretty much the limit! They can make everything and anything - it's almost a little unreal! I still wish for simpler times though, when dressing up meant scrounging through your closet to find something suitable, and then embellishing it at home to make the best costume ever! Manasi's school had Egyptian Day only about a month after we started - they have a ton of dress up days here, makes it real hard to keep up! At that time I had no clue where to get an Egyptian costume for Manasi, and I didn't know anyone who could have taken me either - so we just winged it! One of my kurtas, a shiny belt, dangling earrings and some over-the-top eye makeup - Manasi was as Egyptian as could be! And we had so much fun deciding what she was going to wear! All that's gone now that we know the costume maker!!

Anyway, Spring is almost here - tantalizingly beautiful sunny days, and then torrential rain! Can't decide if I should turn on the air, or leave the heat on! For me, the best way to enjoy any kind of weather is as always, with a book or two! So, in honor of Book Week, Happy Reading to you all!!

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