The Picky Reader: Pop-up Books: Gently, Please!

Pop-up books designed for children can be extraordinarily beautiful things. They are also fragile and in constant danger of being yanked and torn by little fingers. Request any from the library, and half the flaps and cutouts are bound to be torn or missing. It’s hard to urge parents and libraries to spend their money on a gift that won’t endure… yet, if they survive toddlerhood, these are unique books to own and cherish.

Here are a few of my favorites, some hardier than others:

Cousins, Lucy. Maisy Grows a Garden. Somerville: Candlewick, 2013.
Lucy Cousins has created a series of moveable pull-tab Maisy books; there are even “books” like Maisy’s Home and Garden that pop up into 3-D playhouses. I happen to like the interactive elements in Maisy Grows a Garden, the most recent addition to the franchise. The page when the three red tomatoes burst forth on the vine is quite rewarding. The challenge is that very young children who meet Maisy through board books will reach for these and likely disable them. (Case in point: Our family copy is already patched with scotch tape.)

Bataille, Marion. ABC3D. New York: Neal Porter, 2008.
I love this book! And it has survived at least one hundred readings in our house, with only the “G” page needing to be repaired. It’s an alphabet book, but the way the letters emerge is so clever. You can see the pages in motion on this YouTube video. There’s great background music, too!

Boisrobert, Anouck, and Louis Rigaud. Popville. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2010.
A gem for the child who loves buildings and structures. A church pops up in the middle of an open space with a single road leading to it; then, as the pages turn, a bustling town grows up around it. The final spread even has skyscrapers and pop-up power lines. Popville might be slightly more fragile than ABC3D, but it is still appropriate for older toddlers.

Rosen, Michael J. and Robert Sabuda. Chanukah Lights. Somerville: Candlewick, 2011.
Robert Sabuda is probably the king of pop-ups, in the U.S. at least. His books are finely detailed works of art. Look at this video of his most recent, Chaunkah Lights.

As you can see, the intricate layers of 3-D cutouts are definitely ill suited to a toddler audience, but consider packing one or two of his books away for later. As your child begins experimenting with cut paper and scissors, Sebuda has a great section on his website that instructs how to create simple and not so simple pop-ups.

Enjoy these books – with care! – and have fun helping your child try her hand at pop-up art.

Holding books for children to the highest standard, Elaine Dimopoulos teaches writing and children’s literature at Boston University, Simmons College, and Grub Street. Find her at

  • Share This:
  • 1
  • 5

Related Post Name

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *