Book Beat

Pop-Up Books Jump Up the Age Ladder

by Frank Lipsius

To address the National Endowment for the Arts’s complaint that nearly half of Americans do not read books, pop-ups are luring readers of ever-higher ages.

Don’t be surprised to see an investment book describe the current climate with a fist that punches the reader in the nose. That will only continue the trend of pop-up books being written for readers far above levels you’d expect.

Explore Within a Medieval Castle (Silver Dolphin, $21.95), basically a toy with text, says it is for ages 8 and up, and it might be for the toy, which with each page delves deeper into the castle, down to its innermost reaches. But the text rises to the level of middle-school and even high-school sophistication, describing the lifestyle and technological level of the era.

It begins with this introduction: “Castles, in all their magnificence and mystery, are stone symbols of the feudal power system that dominated Europe during the period known as the Middle Ages (AD 500-1500).” From there, the story unfolds as an informative sociological study of an era usually known for swashbuckling knights and romantic castles. This book points out that “after a grueling tournament, William the Marshall had to kneel with his head on an anvil while a blacksmith bashed the knight’s helmet back into shape so it could be removed from his head.”

Sounds and Symbols
Also for ages 8 and up, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Fun With Hieroglyphs (Simon & Schuster, $24.98) provides 24 rubber stamps, an ink pad and a text that shows how to use the hieroglyphs the way the Egyptians did. The book teaches, among much else, that hieroglyphs could express either sounds or be a symbolic language like a combination of English and Chinese, depending on whether there is a vertical stroke within the hieroglyph.

Dinosaurs in the Round (Random House, $19.95) makes three dioramas for a theater-in-the-round for kids 7 and up to play in while the accompanying book and the diorama visuals accurately depict the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous eras for more sophisticated study.

This year’s Robert Sabuda spectacular with Matthew Reinhart,Fairies and Magical Creatures (Candlewick, $27.98), claims to be for age 5 and up, but it conscientiously summarizes myths from around the world to accompany 30 pop-ups with text that would qualify a 5-year-old for classes at the University of Pennsylvania: “Their gregarious cousins, the trooping fairies, live according to fairy laws and etiquette…in the rich folklore of the British Isles.” Or, “In ancient China, philosopher Confucius revered the elu-lin, a one-horned steed covered with multicolored scales.”

Worldly Dragons
Milovoj Ceran, Keith Moseley and Skip Swarek wisely avoid mentioning the appropriate age for Dragon World (Abrams, $15.95), which includes only five dragons, but a popping five that are vaguely associated with different parts of the world and the kinds of creatures that their myths are about.

Young children are not forgotten in the simple but vivid aqueous creations in Pop-Up Sea Creatures (Abrams, $14.95); the elaborate family cartoon scenes in Sammy’s Suitcase (Random House, $21.99); and Bob Staake’s Trucks Go Pop (Little, Brown, $17.99), a Richard Scarey-like cartoon vehicle book in three dimensions.

The new Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who Pop-Up! (Random House, $25.98) propels David A. Carter’s dramatic pop-ups on every page to tell the story of the tiny creatures on giant elephant Horton, who now jump right up into the face of readers.

Robert Sabuda’s paper-engineering creations have never been more spectacular than in his new Peter Pan (Little Simon, $29.99), which combines giant outdoor scenes, such as aerial views of London and a pirate ship on the high seas with small creatures and scenes mixed in with J. M. Barrie’s gentle and alluring prose. This Peter Pan exemplifies pop-ups as spectacle and reading for people of all ages.

Frank Lipsius is a contributing writer to MetroKids.