In 1994, after working on the book for two years, Sabuda was
finally satisfied, so he offered it to a publisher. "We love this
book; we just don't know how to proceed with it," he recalls being
told. It was too complicated and, because pop-up books are made by
hand, too expensive. No children's books were priced at $20.
Undeterred, he took it to another publisher, who agreed to try
producing the book. The result, which hit stores in 1994, was an
instant classic and an engineering marvel. It became the children's
book that adults put on the coffee table. Publishers Weekly dubbed
him the Prince of Paper, while another reviewer called him the
foremost visionary in the field.
"With The Christmas Alphabet, [Sabuda] really established a whole
new standard for paper engineering," says Ann Montanaro, a Rutgers
University library administrator and the founder of the Movable
Book Society, an organization of pop-up enthusiasts. "His work is
much more complex than previous paper engineers', and it has an
artistic quality to it that few others have had."
Since then, in books ranging from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to The Night Before Christmas and
Young Naturalist's Pop-Up Handbook: Butterflies, Sabuda and his
sometime collaborator, Matthew Reinhart, have continued to shatter
boundaries. In Alice, the final pages feature an elaborate arch of
cards. In Oz, a balloon ferrying the wizard rises above one spread.
In The Night Before Christmas, Santa's eight reindeer fly out of
the book toward the reader.
The latest additions to the duo's catalog are Winter's Tale, an
original story by Sabuda about animals, inspired by his childhood
winters in Michigan; Reinhart's retellingÂ of Cinderella; and a
collaboration, Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs. Dinosaurs may
be their most ambitious set of pop-ups yet. On one page, a
spike-studded ankylosaurus prowls, while on another, a toothy
Tyrannosaurus rex menaces the reader.