Our Favorite Pop-Up Books

Wild Oceans

A pop-up book can bring out the kid in pretty much any adult, and kids that love to touch and feel (and grab, and pinch) everything find them irresistible. The art of pop-ups has evolved from a simple art to an elaborate genre that requires the genius of paper engineers to work in harmony with printers, illustrators, and writers. The titles below are prime examples of what makes these books so remarkable—and perfect for gift giving.

The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Some of the best pop-ups are retellings of classic stories. If you’re sighing le sigh of nostalgia for the The Little Prince movie that has yet to come out, you can enjoy a gorgeous pop-up version of this favorite story. There’s a planet overtaken with baobaob trees and a lonely lamplighter. Seeing the truly little prince standing at the top of a large mountain that leaps out of the book, somehow makes the moment even more poignant. This is a classic that deserves to be retold.

Wild Oceans, by Lucio and Meera Santoro
Nonfiction pop-ups aren’t as common, but the format makes perfect sense if a 3D book can tell you something about the subject that would be harder to understand in 2D—like what it’s like to stare down all 50 rows of a shark’s teeth. Lucio Santoro’s Wild Oceans does just that. Besides pop ups, it includes flaps, sidebars, and moveable panels.

Dinosaurs, by Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart
Robert Sabuda is the master of pop-ups. If you find yourself oohing and ahhing over a pop-up book, chances are it’s a Sabuda. In this book, long-extinct dinosaurs come alive, bearing their teeth and taking to the sky. This book does not skimp on the special effects. There are pop-ups within pop-ups and pop-ups on small panels that extend to create a dramatic landscape that’s even larger than the book itself.

One Red Dot, by David A. Carter
Most pop-up books are for older kids—or even adults. But David A. Carter targets the youngest readers. His books are filled with creative surprises. This one is home to “flip-flop flaps” and “whimsical wiggle-wobble widgets” that prompt readers to find a read dot on every page. This is a truly interactive and unforgettable book.

Puff, the Magic Dragon, by Peter Yarrow, Jenny Lipton, Eric Puybaret, and Bruce Foster
“Puff, the Magic Dragon, lived by the sea…” If you like your pop-up with a little music, this is deluxe title is a lovely experience. A CD adds to the experience of reading this classic song. And it’s presented by a three-dimensional version of Puff!

This Book Is a Planetarium, by Kelli Anderson
This book is barely a pop-up book. It’s barely a book! It’s like a philosophical 3D look at the question “What is a book?” But it is without a doubt interactive in the best way possible. There is literally a working planetarium, a string instrument, a calendar, and a speaker inside this book! Kelli Anderson’s text explains the scientific ideas behind the paper engineering. (Although, sadly, she doesn’t explain how to be as cool as she is.)

By now you probably want to make your own pop-up, which is the only rational thing to do after you take in all this amazing paper engineering. Ruth Wickings and Frances Castle’s Pop-Up will introduce you to the basics. Overwhelmed at the thought of making a whole book? Start by making a clever card and sending it to your bestie. Bonus points if you send us a picture!

What are your favorite pop-up books?

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