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Matthew Reinhart is the co-creator of the "Encyclopedia Prehistorica" and "Encyclopedia Mythologica" series. He has also created many other award-winning pop-up books, including "Mommy?" by Maurice Sendak and Arthur Yorinks and "Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy."

Previous National Book Festival Appearances

The Scoop

From the 2008 National Book Festival

How did you get interested in paper engineering and creating pop-ups?

Robert Sabuda is to blame for that! I was just out of Industrial Design School in Brooklyn, New York and I was all set to start a career as a toy designer. I’ve always been a big toy collector (Star Wars figure and Transformers particularly) and I dreamt of working in the toy industry. I was sidetracked a bit when I worked as an assistant for Robert during school. When he was hit with a really hard deadline, I started helping him full-time and grew to enjoy the work. It was such a challenge, and I was always learning something new. Paper engineering is kind of like designing paper Transformers – without so many robots!

What sparked your imagination for your newest book: Encyclopedia Mythologica: Fairies and Other Magical Creatures?

Robert and I always get new ideas - but because we’re so busy, we can’t get to them quickly. We’ve love mythology, and movies like Legend, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and Harry Potter series really got us excited about magical creatures. A few years ago, as I was making the artwork for the T-Rex in Dinosaurs, I thought to myself, “How cool would it be to see a huge pop-up dragon lunging out from the pages?” I knew that after the prehistoric world Robert and I had to focus on the mythological realm, filled with fairy-folk, dragons, mermaids and mythical gods. We enjoy creating creatures and characters that people normally do not encounter, so conjuring fairies, trolls and unicorns in pop-up form seemed the next logical step. I do the research for the series, so I look forward to becoming an expert each time we work on a new book.

When you and Robert Sabuda collaborate on making a pop-up book, how do you divide up the work?

I do the writing and research for all of our Encyclopedia books. For this series, Robert and I split the paper engineering duties – often refining each other’s pop-ups. I then create the color artwork using cut-paper collage for all of the pops.

What challenges do you face in as you create your pop-up books? How do you overcome them?

The biggest challenge is making all of the pop-ups work together. Often, we’ll design pop-ups separately and add them all together on the page as the book’s design progresses. Sometimes, pops need to be reversed or even re-engineered to work together better. In addition, we need to make sure the pops can be duplicated and work over and over again. Thanks to our diligent designers in the studio, we’re able to catch any pop-up problems that appear. It’s still pretty tough – and I still have trouble believing we do it.

What artists have inspired you?

Richard Scarry, Erik Carle, Peter Spier, Maurice Sendak, James Marshall, David Carter, Charley Harper, Arthur Rackham, Takashi Murakami, and Madonna (seriously, we listen to her a lot in our studio).

What tips or advice can you share with young students who are interested in creating pop-ups?

Don’t give up, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and go to for cool do-it-yourself pop-ups to start your instruction!

How do you decide on themes for your books?

I am totally a selfish artist! I work on books I want to work on – on themes, stories and subjects I am interested or inspired by. If I wasn’t 100% excited about the subject of a book, it would be hard for me to make a spectacular pop-up. It’s tough for me to fake enthusiasm!

What is your list of favorite children or teen books?

  • George And Martha by James Marshall
  • Gobble, Grunt, Growl by Peter Spier
  • Cars, Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry
  • Haunted House (Pop-Up) & Robot (Pop-Up) by Jan Pienkowski

If you were not creating books, what do you think you would be doing?

Working at Hasbro designing Transformers I hope! I think I’d probably be in toy design or movie production design by now had I not encountered pop-up books.

What is your advice to parents for passing the joys of reading on to their children?

Please continue to pass on the joys of reading – and spend time with them to enjoy books together! Our books can be a bit delicate for very, very young readers, so look at the book together and share the experience. Your kids will thank you for it later!

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