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Photo credit: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and Life of Pi (Photos courtesy of productions)

Get tickets to these literary West End shows for World Book Day

Marianka Swain
Marianka Swain

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the annual World Book Day! Yes, it's been a quarter of a century of fantastic celebrations around books and reading, encouraging all children and young people to experience the magic of being transported to another world by picking up a book. It can be the start of a lifelong pleasure — and reading can improve your life chances.

World Book Day was created by UNESCO back in 1995, and the first World Book Day in the UK and Ireland took place in 1997, so this 3 March is the 25th World Book Day for British and Irish readers.

If you're looking for fun ways to celebrate World Book Day with your kids, why not turn to the theatre? There are plenty of productions that tie in brilliantly with this annual event, with plays, musicals and dedicated children's shows based on books or offering inspiration for your World Book Day dressing up; after all, the best costumes can be found in the West End. It's another art form dedicated to firing up the imagination and encouraging children to engage with and tell their own stories, which is what World Book Day is truly about. Read on for some recommendations of great World Book Day theatre tickets for all the family.

Book family-friendly West End theatre tickets on London Theatre.

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Matilda the Musical

The ultimate theatre outing for budding readers has to be the stage musical version of Roald Dahl's novel, Matilda. The story's heroine, Matilda Wormwood, is a keen reader and storyteller, and, in the show, we see how that ability helps her to cope with her tough situation, make sense of her feelings, learn about others, and ultimately triumph. Matilda even sings a song about how sometimes, rather than accepting your fate, you have to change your story.

The brilliant adaptation by Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin retains all of Dahl's anarchic naughtiness, while also showing the difference between the curious and ever-evolving Matilda — who loves books and learning about the world — and her shallow family. We appreciate Matilda's qualities even more in theatre, since we wouldn't have this tale played out in front of us without them. Books are even part of the show's design. Plus you can easily create a Matilda costume: you just need a blue schoolgirl dress, stack of books and some attitude! This is a must-see World Book Day show.

Book Matilda the Musical tickets on London Theatre.

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane

No one conjures up extraordinary worlds quite like Neil Gaiman, and the National Theatre's adaptation honours that inventive spirit with its awe-inspiring production, now playing in the West End. The Ocean at the End of the Lane was named the Book of the Year by the National Book Awards, so this is a World Book Day ticket with serious credentials — and it's an incredible example of theatre magic, too.

The story centres on a man returning to his hometown and reflecting on what happened when he was a boy, including a devastating loss, family strife, a new friendship, and an otherworldly battle. It's a tale that always works on two levels: the more realistic one, with relatable problems like having trouble communicating with a parent, and the fantastical one, involving spells, spirits and supernatural scavengers. The play shows how we use stories to process our emotions — and takes us on a jaw-dropping adventure, too, with amazing design and special effects. You just need a raincoat and a stick to dress up as the plucky Lettie for World Book Day, or you could create your own version of the villainous creatures.

Book The Ocean at the End of the Lane tickets on London Theatre.

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The Lion King

The iconic Disney film actually takes its cue from sources like Shakespeare's Hamlet and tales from the Bible, so this is a show with a strong literary heritage — plus director Julie Taymor drew on South African storytelling traditions to create her stage musical version. The result is an epic narrative told with real theatrical panache, and bound to fire up the imaginations of any young theatregoers who are treated to World Book Day theatre tickets.

Follow the winding path of lion cub Simba, who flees his home after his beloved father is lost — something that his scheming uncle, Scar, convinces him was all his fault. Simba befriends Timon the meerkat and Pumbaa the warthog, who embrace a laidback philosophy of "hakuna matata", but he soon realises that he needs to grapple with his past.

Packed with catchy songs by Elton John and Tim Rice, plus towering puppets that bring the Pride Lands to London, it's accessible and unforgettable storytelling. The musical should also give you some great ideas for World Book Day costumes: just a headdress, mask or face paint can transform you into an animal from The Lion King.

Book The Lion King tickets on London Theatre.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

JK Rowling's world-conquering book series is the reason that millions of children first started reading, and that magic lives on in the hit theatrical continuation of her Hogwarts saga. Written by Jack Thorne, who also brought Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials books to screen, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child features all of the beloved elements from Rowling's world, from the Hogwarts Express and Ministry for Magic to close-knit friendships, family drama, thrilling plots, and the conflict between good and evil.

Harry is now a dad, and it's his son Albus who is attending Hogwarts. Albus becomes friends with Draco Malfoy's son, Severus, and the pair decide to prevent a terrible tragedy in the past. But time travel has consequences, and Harry, Ron and Hermione must come together once again to save the day. This incredible production features magic done right in front of you, and will make you want to read the books all over again. You can also get new ideas for Harry Potter World Book Day costumes, whether it's the Hogwarts cloaks or the blue-tinged hair of pivotal new character Delphi.

Book Harry Potter and the Cursed Child tickets on London Theatre.

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Life of Pi

If any book might seem like an impossible venture for a theatre show, it's surely Yann Martel's Booker Prize-winning philosophical novel Life of Pi â€” which features a shipwrecked boy trapped in a boat with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a Bengal tiger. And yet this glorious production by Sheffield's Crucible Theatre, now a major West End hit, manages all of that and more through its exceptional stagecraft, including eye-popping set, lighting and sound design, plus puppets so convincingly alive that they almost upstage the actors.

Even better for a World Book Day theatre trip, the show is all about how we interpret the world around us through various types of storytelling. Pi, whose family owned a zoo before embarking on a perilous sea voyage from India, is telling his tale to two strangers in the present - though we're not sure quite what to believe - and he also ponders the stories of different religions and how they frame our lives. There's great potential for World Book Day dressing up here, whether you go with roar-some tiger stripes or simply Pi's white vest and trousers and a paddle.

Book Life of Pi tickets on London Theatre.

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Frozen the Musical

There's a classic fairy tale at the heart of Disney's beloved film, now a spine-tingling stage musical: the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen. The 19th-century fable differs quite a bit from the Frozen that we know, but there are key elements that remain — such as the devoted Gerda braving snow and peril in order to rescue her best friend, just as Anna journeys bravely to help her sister Elsa. In both cases, love and acceptance save the day.

The spectacular Frozen the Musical retains that core message, as well as all of the wonderful characters and songs that we loved in the movie, including "Do You Want To Build A Snowman?," "Love is an Open Door," and "Let It Go", plus new songs like "Monster". Ingenious design and theatrical stagecraft brings the world of Arendelle and Elsa's magical powers to life, plus wonderful puppetry for Olaf and Sven. It's the ideal World Book Day theatre outing, and will give you fantastic ideas for costumes - you can actually buy some in the Theatre Royal Drury Lane shop, or make your own fabulous princess dress, Olaf (carrot for the nose!), or wrap up warm like Kristoff in his fur boots and woolly hat.

Book Frozen the Musical tickets on London Theatre.

Photo credit: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and Life of Pi (Photos courtesy of productions)

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