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The greatest pop-up books in the world

Posted by Samara Martínez Collaborator on

Reading calls upon your imagination to visualise the most moving stories and embark upon amazing adventures. But what about pictures? What if we bring books to life?

A pop-up book is essentially a three-dimensional, movable or folding book, although there are many other subcategories, including transformations, volvelles, tunnel books, flaps, pull-tabs, pop-outs and pull-downs. That’s quite the list of technical terms for the simple yet intricate task of immersing the reader, or rather the observer, in a story…


Travelling back in time

Imagine a pop-up book. You picture something bright and colourful, with childlike illustrations and big round letters. Am I right? So you’ll be surprised to learn that the earliest pop-up books weren’t for children at all, but for adults. The first to possess these non-static characteristics is thought to have been published in 1306, illustrating an astrological manuscript, and the adult audience doesn’t end there. Poet Ramon Llull made use of volvelles or rotating wheel charts to illustrate his theories ― a technique that is very well established in astronomy, coding, fortune telling and anatomy lessons, the latter specifically in the medical field, where teachers use multiple detailed layers to depict the human body and its entrails. From bodies to landscapes, English landscape architect Capability Brown also used this system to document the “befores and afters” of his work. The examples are endless, and almost exclusively academic up until the end of the 18th century, when the first pop-up books for children were created.


Ingenious engineering

When illustration and architecture come together to produce literary and artistic works, they give rise to masterpieces like Star Wars: A Pop-up Guide to the Galaxy by Matthew Reinhart. And when we say “masterpieces”, we mean it. As stated by the New York Times, “calling this sophisticated piece of engineering a ‘pop-up book’ is like calling the Great Wall of China a partition”. So it looks like some of us have been underestimating the power of the old pop-up...

“Yeah, sure, great,” we hear you say. “But what about something for my little ones?”

Well, you’ve come to the right place! For children’s books, look no further:

 1. The Colour Monster Pop-Up, Templar Publishing

“The Colour Monster doesn’t know what’s wrong with him. He has got into a tangle with his emotions and now it’s time to undo the mess. A simple and fun story that will introduce children and grown-ups alike to the fascinating language of emotions.” Anna Llenas illustrates this adorable story where anger, fear, sadness, happiness and calm are identified so clearly that you can even put them in a jar.



2. The Little Prince, Harcourt Brace and Company

The ultimate classic. Antoine de Saint-Exúpery’s work is given a new lease of life in this book which features the author’s original illustrations.


3. Circus Zingaro by Tina Kraus

Tina Kraus makes use of precise paper engineering to tell the story of a homeless girl who longs to join a captivatingly colourful circus. No details are spared in this book as the author clearly understands the concept of true craftmanship.


4. Leaves by Janet Lawler, Lindsay Dale-Scott and Yoojin Kim

Opening Leaves is a fun and original way to explore the forest foliage. Lindsay Dale-Scott illustrates the backdrop of this wonderful children’s book, with a colour palette that matches Janet Lawler’s story to perfection.


5. In the Butterfly Garden, Prestel Publishing

From caterpillar to butterfly. It is easy to get lost in the world of these winged beauties when you are invited to witness one caterpillar’s evolution from lowly cocoon to beautiful butterfly. But watch out! The praying mantis is on the prowl...




 What other pop-up books can you recommend for children and grown-ups? And what was your favourite story growing up? Let us know in the comments and share your love of reading with the community!

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