Award-winning author and illustrator Robert Sabuda developed an interest in pop-up books while still a child in middle school. Now his books have been named as Bank Street Best Books of the Year and ALA Notable Children's Books and have received the CBC/NCSS Notable Children's Book Award, among others. His best-selling pop-up books include "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," "America the Beautiful" and "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." He is co-creator with Matthew Reinhart of the New York Times best-selling three-volume pop-up series "Encyclopedia Prehistorica," and their latest collaboration is "Encyclopedia Mythologica: Fairies and Other Magical Creatures" (Candlewick, 2008). He lives in New York City.
Previous National Book Festival Appearances
From the 2008 National Book Festival
How did you get interested in paper engineering and creating pop-ups?
When I was a young boy I was absolutely fascinated with pop-ups. I couldn’t believe that such an amazing world could actually exist between two pages!
What sparked your imagination for your newest book: Encyclopedia Mythologica: Fairies and Other Magical Creatures?
Sometimes I feel like Matthew and I live in a magical world already because we make pop-ups! And I have to admit there’s a bit of a challenge (which I like) in creating such delicate pop-ups like the fairies. Even though they seem effortless when you open them, pop-ups are actually very specific, clunky paper mechanics, which require a great deal of engineering to create.
When you and Matthew Reinhart collaborate on making a pop-up book, how do you divide up the work?
For this series (and for the Encyclopedia Prehistorica series) Matthew does the writing and created the finished, color artwork. I design the pop-ups, but Matthew has become such a terrific paper engineer himself he barely needs me!
What challenges do you face in as you create your pop-up books?
Getting the pop-ups to actually work is by far the most difficult part of the process. We don’t have any templates to help us and each pop-up has to be uniquely designed. No two pop-ups are ever the same.
How do you overcome them?
A lot of brainstorming and creative thinking! There are many times when the pop-ups I design don’t work or don’t really do what I want them to do. Then I have to start all over again, trying to approach the problem from a different angle.
What artists have inspired you?
Arnold Lobel and Tomie dePaola are two of my favorite children’s book illustrators. And Matthew Reinhart is my favorite pop-up maker!
What tips or advice can you share with young students who are interested in creating pop-ups?
Visit robertsabuda.com. for pop-up templates (which I didn’t have when I was a kid!) to print right out and begin making your own pop-ups.
Can you suggest a fun exercise to get them started?
Making paper snowflakes is a terrific way to learn how to use scissors as a tool for creating art. I spend most of the day cutting paper, so I feel it is very important to become comfortable with scissors.
How do you decide on themes for your books?
Although it may sound a little selfish, I’m only interested in making pop-up books that have subject matter I’m interested in. I love dinosaurs and magical creatures so it was natural for me to what to make books about them.
What is your list of favorite children or teen books?
When I was a boy I loved Nancy Drew and anything written by John Bellairs. My favorite chapter book was Frog and Toad are Friends.
If you were not creating books, what do you think you would be doing?
I would definitely be a carpenter. My father and grandfather were both carpenters so it makes sense!
What is your advice to parents for passing the joys of reading on to their children?
Always make sure that you have time to share a book with your child. It doesn’t even have to be a pop-up book (although I would love that!), just make sure you read together.