Book shelf series: interview with Robert Sabuda.


There are so many great, talented artists out there that we follow, who inspire us with our own work and creative visions. Our latest purchase was an exceptional piece by leading pop-up book artist, Robert Sabuda, called The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The minute we came across it, we were in awe.


Beginning with the mesmerizing colours; they are lively and vivid, you immediately become enchanted. The stylistic drawings illustrate the magical tale we are all so fond of, in the most delightful way. And of course, the added feature of the pop-up images, which embrace the adventurous story and allow the reader to literally become absorbed. Without this addition, the book would be just as expressive and charming. But the pop-ups make it a particular and unique work of art.

Finally, for the finishing touch, there is a special pair of green glasses included when you purchase the piece. When the reader puts them on, the depth of the pages becomes even greater. We found this so amusing and extraordinary. The incorporation of traditional drawings with new and unique paper engineering methods is what we as artists appreciate, admire and aspire in our own designs.

After enjoying this book, we were so intrigued by this brilliant artist, we had to research and find out more about him. We ended up getting in touch with Robert Sabuda by email and he was nice enough to answer a few highly anticipated questions. Here is how our exchange went:



Q: Have you always been an artist?

RS: I do not recall a time when I did not have a pencil or crayon in my hand! Even as a young boy I enjoyed making little books that I could fill with stories and pictures.


Q: What inspires you as an artist?

RS: I think that inspiration comes from the experiences of my everyday life. I’ll read about something (or someone) and say “wouldn’t that make a wonderful book?”


Q: What artist inspired you?

RS: I’ve always been inspired by the work of artist Tomie dePaola.


Q: What was the first pop-up book you ever had?

RS: The very first pop-up book I ever owned was The Adventures of Super Pickle. It was about this crime fighting people who lived in a vegetable town. It sounds a little silly today, but I LOVED that book when I was a boy.




Q: Some of your pop-up books seem like they might be too delicate for young readers. Are your pop-up books for children or adults?

RS: Sometimes pop-up books can be delicate, but that’s what makes them so wonderful. The more delicate it is, the more fantastic it usually is. If a parent is concerned about their young children handling a pop-up book, it’s the perfect opportunity for them to sit down and SHARE the book with the child, turning the pages carefully. This also teaches a child to respect a book and not treat it like a toy.


Q: How did you learn to make pop-ups?

RS: After receiving The Adventures of Super Pickle I set out to learn how to make pop-ups. There were no books at that time to help me, so I got more pop-up books and began to carefully examine them, trying to figure out how they worked. Eventually I was able to teach myself!


Q: What makes for a good mechanical book?

RS: I always feel that if when you turn the page there is a great “WOW” moment when the pop-up explodes, you are on the way to a great mechanical book!


Q: What, in your opinion, causes the reader’s fascination with mechanical books?

RS: The element of surprise contributes greatly to the success of a pop-up book. Not knowing what to expect on the next page takes the reader back to their childhood experiences with book. They become like children again when they see a pop-up. They are experiencing the book as if they were children again.


Q: Can you talk about your selection process; what sections of text you decided to remove and what sections you decided to leave in, and why?

RS: The original book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a novel so I definitely needed to leave some things out or my pop-up book would be too thick to fit on a shelf!  I make my selections by asking myself what are the most important moments or aspects of the story.  Are some scenes more dramatic than others?  If so, then the more dramatic ones would probably make better pop-up scenes.


Q: The Wonderful World of Oz and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland have a similar illustrative style, but Gods and Heroes has a different illustrative style. How do you decide what illustrative style you will use, what does this depend on?

RS: Just like a traditional two-dimensional picture book’s art style, a three-dimensional pop-up book art style is usually dictated by the manuscript.  I preferred to use a heavy black line in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland because this style is similar to the original style of the novels.  Some of my other pop-up books allow for a more free artistic interpretation.


Q: What inspires you to choose the stories you chose to present in your specific way?

RS: I really only create books based on stories, subjects or themes that interest me personally.  Most people tend to think that children’s book creators are making their books for children when, in fact, that is rarely true.  We’re actually creating them for the child within ourselves.  I know that may sound a bit selfish but it’s true.  All my friends who are children’s book creators have told me they feel the same way.  If the subject doesn’t interest me personally, then I’m not interested in making that book (and I’d probably do a bad job anyway!).


Q: Since you work with moving pictures, your books are a form of animation. Did you ever consider working in animation or creating your own animated projects?

RS: Who knows what the future holds, but for now, books and paper are the way I express myself creatively.


Q: Who are the artists that inspire you?

RS: Tomie dePaola, Barbara Cooney, James Marshall.


Q: How can readers discover more about you and your work?


Twitter: @robertsabuda




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