- Books, Literature, and Writing
Amazing Pop-up Books for Kids and Grown Ups
A selection of the best pop up books in the market today
Looking for a list of the best pop-up books? Look no further as I've compiled a great selection of pop up picture books, from the simple to the really elaborate ones, right on this page.
Through the years, the craftsmanship of pop up books has grown more creative and complex. This is why collectors (like me!) are no longer buying the books just for children! Pop-ups which are works of art in themselves are now being bought by adults for themselves as collectibles.
Read on to learn the history and evolution of movable books and see some of the most amazing pop up books in the market today.
Photo of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Pop-up courtesy of Amazon.
This Squidoo lens was awarded a Purple Star on Nov. 19, 2010, what an honor! Learn more about the Purple Star Program by clicking on the link.
The Best Pop-up Books
for Kids and Grown ups Alike
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the publication of L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz, master paper engineer Robert Sabuda has created a pop-up version of Dorothy's adventures in Oz that fans will find irresistible. He modelled his depictions of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the rest of the gang after W. W. Denslow's original art and added a third dimension that would have rocked Denslow's -- and Baum's -- world.
Lots of surprises are unfurled with every page turn: a spinning cyclone that actually works, a shiny wizard's hot air balloon secured by thin cord that pops into the sky, a glorious tinfoil-laminated Emerald City that becomes even more spectacular and reveals a hidden message when the accompanying spectacles are worn. The abridged text is provided in mini-booklets (that have tiny surprise pop-ups in them too) set onto each page, covers enough basics for the Oz novice. It's definitely a must-have for any library.
Bestselling pop-up artist and engineer Matthew Reinhart, a self-confessed Star Wars fan, has designed a 30th Anniversary Commemorative Edition that comes packed with a variety of exciting features -- intricate pop-ups and fold-outs that explode right out of the page at you, light sabers that really light up, and well-thought-out interactive look at the popular movie franchise.
This wonderful book will be sure to impress all fans, yes even the hard-core ones. (I should know, my husband loves it.) Collectors might do well to buy an extra copy or two because this will surely go down in history as one of the most collectible Star Wars items ever.
If you are planning to build a Sabuda/Reinhart collection (and I suggest you do!), I recommend that you start with the following hard-cover pop-up adaptations of classic stories, along with the two books I mentioned above of course. All of their works are so meticulously crafted and very cleverly engineered that any book collection would be honored to have them in their midst.
David A. Carter is an author, illustrator and one of the best-known contemporary paper engineers. He is the mastermind behind the powerful Bug phenomenon that began in 1988 with the publication of How Many Bugs in a Box? Since then he has created a series of Bugs books with combined sales of nearly six million copies. His work, One Red Dot, was a New York Times best-seller and was highly praised by Newsweek and Entertainment Weekly magazines. He is also the author of the popular Blue 2.
David A. Carter latest series of books takes pop-ups into a new realm, experts say: the realm of fine art.
The books are "One Red Dot," "Blue 2," "600 Black Spots," "Yellow Square" and "White Noise." "I saw these beautiful colors and had this shift," Carter said. The inspiration of color, combined with the miscellany of forms he'd created over seven years, became the five-volume "Red Dot" series. These books are different because the forms do not help to tell a story. "As I build these structures, it's only about building the pop-up, only about building sculpture," he said. "I wouldn't mind if the books were published with no text at all."
Read more about this new series in this interview.
Jan Pienkowski, an award-winning illustrator of children's books, takes the art of the pop-up book to a new level of ingenuity and intricacy with Botticelli's Bed & Breakfast, a witty visual treasure hunt and tour of a fictitious bed & breakfast supposedly run by Botticelli. The book is meant to be opened up completely and tied end to end to reveal a 360 degree view of all the rooms. Fifty-six great artworks by the masters are scattered through the ten old -- sometimes haunted -- rooms of his creation and it's up to the reader to find them all, using the accompanying mini-book as guide.
Similar in fashion to the book I showed you above (Botticelli's Bed & Breakfast), Victorian Doll House comes to life once this book is unfolded. When you tie back the ribbons, the house stands on its own, revealing great decorative details, authentic-looking pop-up period furniture, and press-out play dolls and accessories. Eight elegant rooms are decorated Victorian style with hanging chandeliers, a piano, a tea set, a rocking horse and many other charming surprises. Doors, closets and drawers can actually open and close and store (tiny) things in them.
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong announced the success of the greatest journey in human history. Now this stunning pop-up book full of original NASA photographs brings to life the groundbreaking mission that conquered the Moon and inspired the world.
Acclaimed author Richard Platt focuses on humankind's dreams of traveling to the moon, the technology needed to reach the moon and sustain the astronauts in space, and the moon landing itself. Re-creating the excitement of the expedition are extraordinary pop-ups depicting a rocket, the lunar module, a spaceship, and a spectacular spherical moon, while booklets and flaps offer readers a wealth of intriguing facts.
Slighty more grown-up pop-ups
The following books I'm recommending are slightly more adult in nature but "adult" in the sense that grown-ups might find more enjoyment in them. (No worries though, this is a G-rated page so everything is still kid-safe!)
A work of art in itself, The Architecture Pack is a highly sophisticated version of the beloved pop-up book that offers a unique, cross-cultural, three-dimensional tour of architecture through the centuries. By flipping the elaborately engineered pages, we learn what architects do, how they do it, and all about the great buildings of the world from antiquity to the present. It's packed with information and hands-on activities, models, fold-outs, pop-ups, and 3-D glasses; readers can even fold out a miniature version of the Colosseum in Rome or a French Gothic cathedral. There are discussions on the development of the dome, new materials and shapes, sculptural buildings such as those of Gaudi and Le Corbusier, and skyscrapers.
Image courtesy of I Dream for Architecture
Ron Van Der Meer is a pioneer of the modern pop-up book and has published more than 150 books, including over 100 pop-up titles and was actually the first designer to introduce three-dimensional books to the adult market. His books on specialist subjects such as architecture, music and psychology have been international best-sellers and are collected by fans throughout the world. As well as bringing the thrills of pop-ups to adults, his ingenious mechanics show graphic designers the full potential of paper engineering. A flat page of a seemingly normal book can be lifted and turned to reveal the three dimensions of a sailing ship, an orchestra, a volcano or the Sydney Opera House.
Read more about paper engineer Ron Van Der Meer.
Prepare to be amazed. From the lenticular cover that changes with the angle of your hands all the way to the Z, ABC3D is as much a work of art as it is a pop-up book. Each of the 26 three-dimensional letters move and change before your eyes. C turns into D with a snap. M stands at attention. X becomes Y with a flick of the wrist. And then there's U...Boldly conceived and brilliantly executed with a striking black, red, and white palette, this is a book that readers and art lovers of all ages will treasure for years to come.
Marion Bataille is a French graphic artist and illustrator and ABC3D is her first published book.
More than 600,000 people visit Graceland every year, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. With Graceland: An Interactive Pop-Up Tour, you'll go behind the velvet ropes for an all-access tour of the Elvis Presley Estate. The book starts with a foreword by widow Priscilla then moves room by room through the Memphis mansion.
Chuck Murphy is one of the most celebrated paper engineers in the country, with more than 60 books to his credit.
Image courtesy of The Elvis Shop
Known worldwide as the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) had an incredible directing career that spanned five decades and more than fifty films. He earned numerous awards, inspired countless publications and festivals, and spawned a new era in suspense cinema.
Learn how to make a pop-up book
Check out these paper engineering books to find out how to make your own pop-up in no time!
Elements Of Pop Up: A Pop Up Book For Aspiring Paper Engineers - Learn paper engineering basics and make your own pop-up book!
I learned how to make pop-out spirals and other complicated shapes and so much more with this book. (Check out our pop-up wedding invitation below!). Even if you've never transformed a piece of paper into something else in your life, don't be scared. With constant practice, this book will turn you into a paper-folding genius in no time.
A short history of the movable book
The first authentic pop-up book was created in 1929 by S. Louis Giraud, a British publisher, though the first mechanical book dates back to the 13th century when a Catalan poet used a revolving disc to illustrate his theories. The pop-up's heyday was in the 1960s, when every child probably had a couple on his shelf.
The epithet "pop-up" is often applied to any three-dimensional or movable book, although properly the umbrella term movable book covers pop-ups, transformations, tunnel books, volvelles, flaps, pull-tabs, pop-outs, pull-downs, and more, each performing in a different manner. Also included, because they employ the same techniques, are three-dimensional greeting cards.
Design and creation of such books is known as paper engineering, a term not to be confused with the term for the science of paper making. It is akin to origami in so far as the two arts both employ folded paper. However, origami tends to be focused on creating objects, whereas pop-ups tend to remain essentially pictorial and mechanical in nature.
If you would like to delve deeper into the history of movable books in general, you can refer to the following links.
- UNT Libraries: Pop-up and Movable Books: A Tour Through Their History
At present, books considered pop-up or movable are popular sources of delight for children and adults alike. However, the types of books today's audiences associate with such a genre are the result of a somewhat long development and, consequently, fo
- The Great Menagerie: The Wonderful World of Pop-Up and Movable Books, 1811-1996
The Wonderful World of Pop-Up and Movable Books, 1811-1996
- RobertSabuda.com: Pop-Up Books
Explore Pop-up Books - everything from interviews with authors to simple pop-up projects you can make.
- A Concise History of Pop-up and Movable Books
Because books are by design two-dimensional, it might seem impossible for a page to add motion or depth other than through illustrations with perspective and illusion. And yet, for more than 700 years, artists, philosophers, scientists, and book desi
- The Movable Book Society
The Movable Book Society was organized in 1993 to provide a forum for collectors, artists, curators, book sellers, book producers and others to share enthusiasm and exchange information about pop-up and movable books.
Pop-up Methods and Techniques
Pop-up Method: Transformation
A Transformation starts with a scene made up of vertical slats. Pulling a tab on the side makes the slats slide under and over one another to "transform" into a totally different scene. Ernest Nister was an early English children's book author who produced "mechanical books" that often utilized the Transformation method.
See this technique in action below.
Tunnel Books (also called peepshow books) consist of a set of pages bound with two strips folded in a concertina manner on each side. The pages are then viewed through a die-cut hole on the cover and the effect is like you are looking through a tunnel. Openings in each page allow the viewer to see through the entire book and images on each page work together to create a three-dimensional scene inside. The Henri Rousseau Tunnel Book series are perfect examples of this method. This type of book dates from the mid-eighteenth century and was inspired by theatrical stage sets.
Below is a video that demonstrates the Tunnel Book technique.
Volvelles are paper constructions with rotating parts. An early example is the Astronomicum Caesareum by Petrus Apianus, as seen on the photo to the right which was made for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles in 1540. The book is full of nested circular pieces that revolve on grommets.
Below is a wheel chart that employs the most basic version of the volvelle method.
The most common type of pop-up is the Pop-Out. With this method, the pages open fully and a 3D model appears miraculously in the middle of the page. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: A Pop-up Adaptation of Lewis Carroll's world-renowned story by Robert Sabuda demonstrates this fantastically. Make sure you watch the walk-through of this gorgeous book below.
Like most anyone, I grew up loving the tactile quality of pop-up books and as you will see throughout this page, I've kept that passion with me up to this day. I have an ever-growing collection of children's books, 50% of which are pop-up, and that is why I decided to share with you a number of the excellent ones I've come across through the years that I'm quite sure you will love to have in your library as well.
My love for anything and everything pop-up -- be it a book or a card -- began with a fantastic book called The Sesame Street Riddle Book, published in 1977. I was 5 when my parents bought it for me and I remember spending hours marvelling at the way the paper pieces moved whenever tabs are tugged, pushed or rotated.
I hope you enjoyed reading through this page as much as I enjoyed putting it together. I have always been fascinated with pop-up books and this fascination is reflected, not surprisingly, in some of my work and even our wedding invitation (see pic). It was fashioned using a technique that was detailed in David A. Carter's book Elements Of Pop Up: A Pop Up Book For Aspiring Paper Engineers.
How about you? Do you love pop-up books, even as a grown-up? I would love to hear your thoughts.