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Once you pop, you can’t stop

Gloomy weather and an almost-empty office provided the perfect opportunity to try Pop-Up: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Bookby Ruth Wickings and Frances Castle (Candlewick). This book/activity kit introduces paper engineering mechanics from basic (angle folds and parallel folds) to complex (noisemakers and spirals), then demonstrates the concepts in four projects. Punch-out pieces with peel-off adhesive make the book nicely self-contained — no scissors or glue required. Cindy, Katrina, brave intern Irene, and I sat down with a copy apiece and started building.

Four pop-ups and quite some time later, we sat back and surveyed our work. Each of us had assembled a dragon, castle, Frankenstein’s laboratory, and jungle scene — with mixed success.

Some of our pop-ups worked better…

than others.

Following the illustrated step-by-step instructions, we quickly learned that an unclear directive or ambiguous diagram could have disastrous results, as when one dragon’s tongue ended up protruding from beneath its jaw. The perforated pieces were so beautifully detailed that we had a hard time punching them out; Irene exclaimed in frustration, “I need tiny fingers!” while at the other end of the table I inadvertently ripped the head off a castle guard. After each pop-up, a “mini master class” invites budding paper engineers to explore the techniques further. Cindy doubted that merely following directions for the four main projects would give enough understanding of the concepts to go entirely DIY. Overall, we thought the pop-ups provided a good rainy afternoon activity for kids about age nine (rather than the suggested seven) and up.

With a minimum of parts, easy-to-follow directions, and a satisfying noisemaker, Frankenstein’s lab (featuring monster) was the biggest hit of the four projects.

Candlewick’s catalog copy for Pop-Up reads, “Do you delight in seeing an ingenious pop-up ‘pop’ but feel utterly daunted at the thought of making one yourself?” After spending an enjoyable afternoon with the book, I still feel daunted — but maybe not utterly so.

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.



  1. >What a fun post! This really fulfills the promise of Out of the Box. Based on your experience I may buy this for my turning-11 niece's birthday, rather than my turning-7 daughter.

  2. >Laurie, I think 11 is a great age for this activity. I hope she has as much fun as we did!

  3. >Too cute! I am glad you guys showed this.

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