Meet Authors & Illustrators

Robert Sabuda

Robert Sabuda

   Often referred to as the "Prince of Pop-ups," Robert Sabuda is also a prince of a guy. You would never guess that he is one of the most successful and talented paper-engineers of our time. He is pleasant, friendly and unassuming--a delight to talk to with and someone who has a wide range of interests. He has also created books that stretch the imagination and his abilities by using a variety of media to produce the desired effect. Examples range from simulated handmade Egyptian papyrus for his book Tutankamen's Gift, paper cut to look like mosaics in Saint Valentine to paintings that resemble stained glass for Arthur and the Sword. According to a Kirkus review of the award winning book, The Paper Dragon, "Sabuda's illustrations are endlessly inventive; the forms of clothing, dragon, plants, and trees are portrayed in painted tissue-paper collages affixed to Japanese papers" Robert really wants to design and create books that engage all of the senses. Pop-ups are one format that let Robert present stories in such an expressive format.

   We met at a restaurant known for its desserts and extensive menu in Kensington, Maryland while Robert was on a book tour, and I'll let you in on a little secret -- he loves desserts. To look at him you would never guess that he has a sweet tooth; but I also learned that he works out, so that is part of his secret of keeping trim. He also enjoys bicycling and took a long bicycle trip from Fairbanks to Anchorage.

   After the success of his book The Christmas Alphabet, Robert signed on with an agent. He really hadn't sought one out because he didn't feel qualified enough, but while accepting the Golden Kite award from SCBWI (he is now a board member of the organization), Jennie Dunham sought him out and offered to take him on as a client. They have been business partners ever since and he is delighted to have someone who is as excited as he is to try out new things and who is available to share ideas and take care of the "messy" details of negotiating contracts.

   How did he get started in children's books? It goes back to his days in college when he served an internship at Dial Books (Penguin Putnam). After graduating from college he submitted a small book with black-and-white linoleum prints to a company called Green Tiger Press. They ended up having a book drop from their planned list and so Robert got his big break. He did two books for Green Tiger -- The Fiddler's Son and The Wishing Well both currently out-of-print. His first manuscript to illustrate for Philomel (Penguin Putnam) was Walden, a series of text selections by Steven Lowe from Thoreau's work.

   Robert now considers himself a New Yorker. He has spent more time in Manhattan than Michigan where he grew up. His studio is about two blocks away from his house. Other artist friends encouraged him to move further away, to get a loft somewhere, but his instincts told him to keep his studio close by. As Robert says, he tends to forget things and having everything nearby on the upper West side was a smart move. Also keeping the studio out of his home has helped him to separate his work and personal life. He can't get into his studio on Sundays so that is a day that he can truly devote to other activities. Then in 2002, he made a resolution to also take off Saturdays and for the most part he has kept to that schedule. After all, making books is a job, not an all consuming activity. He uses his spare time to sleep, read, work out, and cycle. He also enjoys traveling in Europe, most recently Italy and Austria. Robert, not too surprisingly, also collects moveable books. One of his most recent acquisitions is a copy of Malton's Perspective produced in 1776. It is a large book that was used to teach perspective to artists and others.

   When he goes on book tours, Robert usually gives a demonstration of the techniques for creating a pop-up. Moveable books must obey the laws of physics; therefore, when he creates his books they are done with scissors, paper, and glue on white paper. Then, when the design is finished, a series of die lines are created digitally as well as a prototype book. He always goes to the manufacturing site to make sure that the workers get it right and also to make any last minute adjustments or improvements to help with the assembly process. The die mold is like a cookie cutter. The pieces are stamped out from a printed sheet, folded, and glued to create the book. Obviously a highly labor-intensive activity.

   Robert loves history and he has a new series that will allow him to travel back in time to visit many of the great artist, inventors, and others. The first book due out in 2003 is Providence Traveler. As he put it, he wants to take kids to places they would not normally visit and also to create books that he himself would like to have.

   Make sure you catch Robert Sabuda on the Today Show on December 5th, and of course don't miss his latest and most incredible book; The Night Before Christmas. It had a print run of 300,000, but I doubt if there will be any left in a week or so. And for those who collect moveable books, there is also a 500 copy limited edition that is cloth bound in a slip case, signed, and numbered -- and it even includes an extra pop-up.

Contributor: Marilyn Courtot

For further information on Robert Sabuda, please visit or

Also check out Robert Sabuda's Biography
and our feature on the history of Pop-Ups



ABC Disney
Robert Sabuda
   Here is a coffee table (toy chest?) book for three-year-olds! All their (and your) favorite Disney characters come brilliantly to life in this alphabet pop-up book. A is for Ariel, B is for Bambi, and C is for Cinderella, etc. The well-designed characters leap up from behind five-inch flaps. White Rabbit (for W) from Alice in Wonderland, with an umbrella in one hand and a clock in the other, looks positively frantic as his legs move because he is late for a very important date. Each flap has a swirling design, which picks up some theme from the character or scene underneath. The book is beautifully constructed and will surely fascinate and engage youngsters for periods on end as they recognize familiar characters and are introduced to new ones. I hesitate to recommend the book for children under three because the pop-ups are delicate. Younger kids may not understand or may have difficulty being gentle enough to preserve the book. 1998, Disney Press, $22.50. Ages 3 to 6. Reviewer: Jeanne K. Pettenati
ISBN: 0-7868-3132-4

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Robert Sabuda
   Robert Sabuda, currently the dean of pop-up creators, continues his run in this "Classic Collectible Pop-Up" adaptation of Lewis Carroll's original tale. The six scenes chosen include a gargantuan Alice wallowing beneath the rabbit's house, the Mad Hatter's tea party, and the croquet game. The design cue is taken from John Tenniel's beloved illustrations, and all of Sabuda's major constructions are colorful and impressive. But the book really shines in its extras. Tucked into each spread is an adapted version of the story. Tucked within these slim pages are smaller constructions: the caterpillar; a flunky painting the roses red; a rather scary Cheshire Cat. Yet the tour de force is undoubtedly Sabuda's tiny Victorian peep show in the first spread, which shows Alice tumbling down an endless hole. This is an impressive book, with a traditional take on Alice. For those looking beyond the traditional, do compare this offering with J. Otto Seibold's equally exhuberant, surreal pop-up vision of the same story. 2003, Little Simon, $24.95. Ages 2 up. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr (Children's Literature)

   Alice is quietly sitting on the riverbank with her sister. Her sister is reading a book which Alice is sure must be a very dull book on account of the fact that the book has no picture or conversations. Then Alice sees a white rabbit running past. This in itself is not all that odd. What is odd it that the rabbit is talking to itself. Alice has never seen a talking rabbit. Without stopping to think Alice sets off in hot pursuit and thus begins her extraordinary adventures. Alice soon finds herself falling down a terribly long rabbit hole and from that time onwards, as Alice says, "curiouser and curiouser" things keep happening to her. Alice finds herself in situations where she keeps changes sizes; she goes for a swim in her own tears; she attends the most peculiar tea party; and a queen threatens to cut off her head (among other things). Though there are only six double page spreads in the book, each spread contains a considerable amount of Alice's bizarre story. There is one very large and highly complicated pop-up in the middle of the double page and to the side of this main pop-up there is a mini book describing Alice's adventures. Within the book more pop-ups with moving parts, and foil papers can be found. To say that this is a glamorous and remarkable book is an understatement. Just when you think that you have seen it all you discover some new surprise, some hidden piece or part. A pop-up adaptation of Lewis Carroll's original tale. 2003, Simon and Schuster, Ages 6 up, $24.95. Reviewer: Marya Jansen-Gruber

Arthur and the Sword
Retold and illustrated by Robert Sabuda
   With the stunning radiance of sunlit stained glass, the pages glow with the legend of the boy Arthur. The story is told simply with lyrical language and just enough authentic vocabulary--steed, tunic, tattered cloak--to heighten the Medieval mood around a classic English churchyard. There, a bejeweled and glorious Excalibur stands waiting for the hand that would be king to hoist it from an anvil of steel. Focused on that single confirmation of Arthur's true destiny, this reverent version of British lore unites historical trappings, resplendent tones and a tale of promise to create an inspired piece of children's literature. 1995, Atheneum, $16.00 and $5.99. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Deborah Zink Roffino
ISBN: 0-689-31987-8
ISBN: 0-689-82031-3
Best Books:
   Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for Pre-K--Grade 6, 1997; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001; H.W. Wilson; United States
   Children's Choices, 1996; International Reading Association; United States
   Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, November 1995; Cahners; United States
State Reading Lists:
   Kentucky Bluegrass Award, 1997; Kentucky

The Blizzard's Robe
Robert Sabuda
   One night, when Blizzard comes to the village of the People Who Fear the Winter Night, his robe is set aflame as he swoops over the fire belonging to the young robemaker, Teune. Blizzard collapses to the ground, destroyed, and the villagers are happy. Now they will have "one less thing to fear from the Winter Night." Teune alone feels sadness at Blizzard's collapse. That night he comes to her in a dream and asks her to make him a very special robe. In exchange, he will honor her people with "the greatest gift." Not knowing what the gift will be, Teune sets to work. After many long, freezing hours, the robe is complete. Blizzard fulfills his promise by giving Teune's People the Northern Lights. Both Robert Sabuda's story and his illustrations are enchanting. His use of the batik method is magnificent, and his colors are glorious. 1999, Atheneum, $16.00. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Heidi Green
ISBN: 0-689-31988-6
Best Books:
   The Best Children's Books of the Year, 2000; Bank Street College of Education; United States
   School Library Journal Book Review Stars, October 1999; Cahners; United States
State Reading Lists:
   Young Hoosier Book Award, 2001-2002; Indiana

The Christmas Alphabet
Robert Sabuda
   Sabuda's Christmas Alphabet is a wonderful representation of the season's symbols, magic and spirit. Twenty-six elegant pop-up paper constructions will surprise and delight readers. Sabuda's skill and vision are sometimes breathtaking and always make one pause and remember the glories the symbols really hold Recipient of numerous awards, this book is a paper-engineering masterpiece. 1994, Orchard, $21.95. Ages All. Reviewer: Susie Wilde
ISBN: 0-531-06857-9
Best Books:
   Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for Pre-K--Grade 6, 1997; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Bulletin Blue Ribbons, 1994; Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books; United States
   Not Just for Children Any More, 1998; Children's Book Council; United States
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   ABC Children's Booksellers Choices Award Winner 1995 Special Subjects United States

Cookie Count: A Tasty Pop-Up
Robert Sabuda
   This talented illustrator continues to produce beautiful Christmas books. Last year it was The 12 Days of Christmas, in 1994 it was A Christmas Alphabet and this year it is Cookie Count. His ingenuity as a paper engineer stands out and truly puts him in a class by himself. In his latest pop-up extravaganza, kids count from one to ten as they "ooo and ahhs" over the delectable wonders that spring up to meet them on each of ten spreads. The cookies counted on each ryhming page pop and twirl as they unfold, adding life to each sugary, paper construction. Special materials such as "stained glass" and a silver spoon in the peanut butter add just the right ornament to the simple painted colors of the pages. The colorful little mice that can be found enjoying the cookies on each spread add a special element that young readers will love to find. It truly is a marvel, and the final spread unfolds as a gingerbread house which simply has to be seen to be believed. A scrumptious treat and one the family can treasure for many years. 1997, Little Simon, $19.95. Ages All. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
ISBN: 0-689-81191-8

Earth Verses and Water Rhymes
J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrated by Robert Sabuda
   Poets come from all walks of life. J. Patrick Lewis, for example, is an economist by profession. In Earth Verses and Water Rhymes, handsomely illustrated by Robert Sabuda, the poet-by-avocation introduces new ways to see and listen to nature: Mushrooms dance "tipping their caps...;" July brings "Brown sugar nights / Honeycomb days / Cinnamon afternoons..."; and "The old October Ogres come / Without a fee-fi-fo or fum:/ They lumber in tum-tum-ti-tum." If that giant chant doesn't ring a bell with children, it will when next they hear it in a poem or story. 1991, Atheneum, $13.95. Ages 7 to 11. Reviewer: Jan Lieberman
ISBN: 0-689-31693-3

The Knight's Castle: A Pop-Up Book
Robert Sabuda
   A small white mouse explores a castle one dark stormy night. Bats and dragon heads confront him. But the most wonderful surprise is the knight himself, resplendent in shiny silver armor. Pop art successfully meets toddler in Sabuda's bright, bold pop-up book. 1994, Artists and Writers Guild, $8.95. Ages 4 to 7. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
ISBN: 0-30717626-6

A Kwanzaa Celebration: Pop-Up Book
Nancy Williams
Illustrated by Robert Sabuda
   Each spread in this pop-up book illustrates and describes one of the principles of Kwanzaa. The text teaches the symbols and words associated with the holiday. A book meant to be shared by adults with children. 1995, Little Simon, $11.95. Ages 2 up. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
ISBN: 0-689-80266-8

The Night Before Christmas
Clement Clarke Moore
Illustrated by Robert Sabuda
   If there is one true master of pop-up art today, it has to be Robert Subuda. His version of the famous poem "The Night Before Christmas" is yet another tour de force. It opens with a little mouse and the clock pointing to midnight, the side flaps show the mice children in bed with dreams of delicious treats filling their heads. A wheel spins and the golden treats move in a circular pattern to simulate the dreams. Some of the outstanding scenes are Santa and his reindeer which has the reindeer literally coming out of the pages and Santa coming down and going up the chimney. Then there is the final spread of a snow-covered town —houses, bridges, bandstand, church and trees all in 3-D — with a pull-tab to show Santa in his red suit soaring across the sky. It will bring oohs and ahs from all who get to see it. This is a book to be shared with children but not necessarily given to them. Rough treatment will destroy the pop-ups, because care must be taken when opening and closing the pages. 2002, Little Simon/Simon & Schuster, All Ages, $24.95. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
ISBN 0-689-83899-9

The Paper Dragon
Marguerite W. Davol
Illustrated by Robert Sabuda
   This is a story about a humble Chinese painter, Mi Fei. Although his love for his art is great, he cares little for fame and is always ready to put aside his brushes to listen to his fellow villagers. When Sui Jen, a fiery dragon, threatens to destroy his community, Mi Fei agrees to undertake three great tasks to free his people from danger. It is his love for his friends that brings salvation and solutions to questions that seem unanswerable. The book is exquisitely illustrated by master paper craftsman, Robert Sabuda. His pictures elegantly fold out to reveal the enormity of the dragon, the tasks he successfully performs, and his love of the community. 1997, Atheneum, $17.00. Ages 6 to 10. Reviewer: Susie Wilde
   Mi Fei is a humble painter who enjoys painting about the history of his village. Word comes that the dreaded dragon, Sui Jen, who has slept for 100 years, has awakened and is destroying everything in his path. Mi Fei is sent to find a way to put him back to sleep. There are three tasks that Sui Jen tells Mi Fei to perform before he can return to sleep. Armed with only his scrolls and paints, Mi Fei ingeniously performs the tasks and returns the dragon to his former sleeping state. The vibrant illustrations add to the motion and feeling of the story. 1997, Atheneum Books, $17.00. Ages 5 to 8. Reviewer: Leila Toledo
   A humble Chinese artist must vanquish the dragon terrorizing his village--but how? Armed only with the tools of his trade and the kindness of his heart, Mi Fei is able to bring peace to the creature in Marguerite Davol's riveting The Paper Dragon. Robert Sabuda's cut tissue-paper illustrations and fold-out spreads capture the spirit of old China and the majesty of the dragon. 1997, Atheneum, $17.00. Ages 5 to 8. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum
ISBN: 0-689-31992-4
Best Books:
   Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for Pre-K--Grade 6, 12th Edition, 1999; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for Pre-K--Grade 6, 12th Edition, 1999; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Kaleidoscope, A Multicultural Booklist for Grades K-8, Third Edition, 2001; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Not Just for Children Any More, 1999; Children's Book Council; United States
   Notable Books for a Global Society, 1998; International Reading Association; United States
   Notable Books for Children, 1998; American Library Association-ALSC; United States
   Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of the Social Studies, 1997; National Council for the Social Studies; United States
   Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, 1998; National Council for the Social Studies; United States
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   The Golden Kite Award Award Book 1997 Picture Book TextAward Book United States
   The Golden Kite Award Award Book 1997 Illustration United States

Saint Valentine
Robert Sabuda
   We hear about St. Valentine's Day all our lives, but few people know much about the man who the holiday is named for. This thoughtful and touching book tells the story of Valentine the man. He was a Roman physician who used herbal medicine to heal people and who defied the Roman government by worshipping a single god. This book tells the story of how he cured a child's blindness and sent her the first "valentine" before he was executed by the Romans for his religious beliefs. Based on facts and myths of his life, this book provides an interesting view of Valentine the man. The beautiful mosaic illustrations add to the historic feel of the book. 1998, Simon and Schuster, $16.00 and $5.99. Ages 4 to 7. Reviewer: Alexandria LaFaye
ISBN: 0-689-31762-X
ISBN: 0-689-82429-7
Best Books:
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001; H.W. Wilson; United States

The Movable Mother Goose
Robert Sabuda
   Robert Sabuda is the grand master of pop-up books. These nursery rhymes are illustrated with inventive paper sculptures that are unique and humorous. Little Bo-Peep is an English Sheep dog, Nimble Jack is a grasshopper, Jack Sprat is a hippo, his wife a flamingo. One of the most elaborate sculptures is 24 black birds-a-la-Elvis, baked in a pie. Of course, this fragile art, tempting as it will be to young children, is not for young hands. There are six spreads each brimming with surprises, that make this, as well as each and every one of his other books, a must for collectors of paper sculpture/pop-up books. 1999, Little Simon, $19.95. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Kristin Harris
ISBN: 0-689-81192-6

The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Pop-up Celebration
Robert Sabuda
   This pop-up version of the familiar carol deserves to be wrapped carefully with the most delicate ornaments, to be brought down each holiday season to be savored anew. Intricate, white paper cutouts form three-dimensional versions of each of the gifts listed in the song. They gifts are made more realistic in this version. For instance, the four calling birds are in a cuckoo clock and the eight maids a-milking are gingerbread cookies. 1996, Simon & Schuster, $19.95. Ages All. Reviewer: Dr. Judy Rowen
ISBN: 0-689-80865-8
Best Books:
   American Booksellers Pick of the Lists, Fall, 1996; American Booksellers Association; United States
   Booklist: Editors' Choice: Books for Youth, 1996; American Library Association; United States
   Bulletin Blue Ribbons, 1996; Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books; United States
   Instructor (Intermediate), 1996; Instructor (Intermediate); United States
   Not Just for Children Any More, 1999; Children's Book Council; United States
   Primary Book Talk: The Year's 21 Best Books for Children, 1996; Instructor (Primary Edition); United States
   Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, September 1996; Cahners; United States

Tutankhamen's Gift
Robert Sabuda
   The bold artwork in these illustrations look like they were painted on papyrus, and indeed according to the credits, each picture was made from a single cut piece of black paper adhered to painted handmade Egyptian papyrus. Sabuda tells the story of Prince Tutankhamen, a sickly and slight child who was educated with the other noble children but was not considered a contender for the throne. When his father and his successor Amenhotep IV both die, Tutankhamen at the age of 10 becomes Pharaoh. His reign was short, but during that time he reigned with kindness and Egypt flourished. A book that recounts history through the eyes of a child, and in a format that will enchant. 1997 (orig. 1994), Aladdin, $17.00 and $6.99. Ages 5 up. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
   Artist/author Robert Sabuda's exquisitely illustrated Tutankhamen's Gift, depicts the young king as a shy, unassuming child who restored his people's freedom to worship their old gods when he became pharaoh. 1994, Atheneum, $17.00 and $6.99. Ages 7 to 10. Reviewer: Beverly Kobrin
   New to paperback, this brightly illustrated text tells the story of the young Tutankhamen, the child pharaoh of Egypt who rebuilt the temples destroyed by his older brother. Portraying the pharoah as a child who was often too small and frail to do what other kids did, Sabuda gives a human dimension to this historical figure who understood the aesthetic as well as cultural value of the monuments that the Egyptians built to their gods. Once again providing a compelling fact-based fictional view of the past, Sabuda makes history accessible to kids. His factual afterword helps to separate the "facts" from the "fiction" while pointing out the difficulty of pinpointing the real facts from the myths of history. 1997 (orig. 1994), Aladdin Paperbacks, $6.99. Ages 6 to 9. Reviewer: Alexandria LaFaye
ISBN: 0-689-31818-9
ISBN: 0-689-81730-4
Best Books:
   Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for Pre-K--Grade 6, 1997; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001; H.W. Wilson; United States
   Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of the Social Studies, 1994; National Council for the Social Studies; United States
   Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, January 1994; Cahners; United States
State Reading Lists:
   Utah Children's Book Awards, 1997; Utah


Updated 12/21/03

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