Robert Sabuda’s book America the
Beautiful features intricate and
detailed pop-up spreads of American
landmarks, such as Mount Rushmore.
AN INSIDE VIEW OF THE BOOK INDUSTRY
Another masterpiece by Robert Sabuda pops up
A paper cut above
By Hope Katz Gibbs
It was the pop-up Adventures of Super assemblehismasterpieces.
Pickle that did it. “Getting the tornado to spin in The Matthew Reinhart. We showed the publisher
Illustrator Robert Sabuda, then 7, was Wizard of Oz—now, that was tricky,” Sabuda one idea of a T. rex ripping the meat out of
refusing to cooperate for the dentist and, in an notes. “But the really tough part is getting the another dinosaur, and worried they’d think it
attempt to keep him from escaping from the illustrations to pop down again and again.” was too gruesome. But everyone loved it. After
office, Sabuda’s mom reached into a bin of What’s next for this creative genius? all, it’s realistic, and I think kids like that.” BB
children’s books. Into his hands she placed “The Cretaceous period,” he says. “I have
the first pop-up book the young man from a loved dinosaurs since I was a little boy, so I’m Hope Katz Gibbs is a freelance writer in
tiny town in rural Michigan had ever seen. going to work on a new series with my partner Clifton, Virginia.
Not only did Sabuda relax enough to
keep from biting the doc, but pop-up art is the
style of illustration he came to master.
Thirty-one years later, Sabuda has sold
more than 2 million pop-up books and made
the New York Times bestseller list three times
for his pop-up versions of The Night Before
Christmas, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. (Alice, in
fact, was named the New York Times Best
Illustrated Book for 2003.)
What takes some time, he admits, is figuring out how to engineer those astonishingly
intricate cut-paper creations. After about a
year of toying around with reams of card
stock, scissors, tape and ouchy paper cuts,
everything works perfectly. Then it’s up to
teams of skilled workers to meticulously
“Getting on the New York Times
bestsellers list was probably the coolest thing that
has happened in my career,” says the 38-year-
old, who creates his masterpieces in a spacious loft in Manhattan, where he’s
surrounded by jars of colorful art supplies
and shelves of antique toys.
It was here that he constructed his latest
work, America the Beautiful. Inspired by the
classic 1895 poem by Katharine Lee Bates, this
visual feast also seems destined for greatness.
The pop-ups are stark white and stand out
against backgrounds drenched in rich colors.
And waiting on the final spread is Sabuda’s signature mini-book within the book where he’s
created four more pop-ups to illustrate the lesser-known stanzas of Bates’ epic.
How does Sabuda decide how to illustrate
each passage in the books he selects?
“There are moments in the literature that I
know need to be illustrated,” he says. “Luckily,
the ideas come naturally.”
THE COSTCO CONNECTION
A variety of pop-up books by Robert
Sabuda are available in most warehouses.
NOVEMBER 2004 • The Costco Connection 13