Friday, December 10, 2010

27. Two Classics That Pop!

Beauty & the Beast: A Pop-Up Book of the Classic Fairy Tale, engineered by Robert Sabuda, Simon & Schuster$28.99, ages 4-8, 12 pages. Sabuda, one of the great wizards of paper engineering, once again delivers joy into our hands. In this pop-up adaptation, Sabuda stages five elaborate scenes and numerous smaller ones in the fairy tale classic about beautiful Belle and the hideous beast who falls in love with her and is transformed by her tears into a handsome prince. From the first spread, the grandeur of the book sweeps you away. There, you see the beast's dark castle rise up as high as the book is wide when folded out and looking as imposing as Hogwarts. Down below, Belle's father approaches on a horse. On the left side of the spread, narrow pages open to reveal the first chapter of the story, along with two small pop-ups, one showing feathers flying as Belle and her wicked sisters tend to chickens and another showcasing a lush pink rose that Belle modestly requests from her father. Then to the right, three doors appear in a vertical row, each latched with a paper tab. On each tab is a sentence or two that sets up what's behind a door. As you lift the tab, the doors accordion up and you look through a window to see long, colorful hallways with mirrors at the end. By now, you feel completely enveloped in the tale and can't wait to see what pops up next.

Later spreads show the beast's face rising from the page, Belle and the Beast dining at a table, and in the grand finale, Belle crouching down where the Beast lays dying, under a magical arch of trees and flowers. Below this scene a smaller pop-up allows the beast to transform into a prince. This is another masterwork from a man who cuts magic from paper.

Le Petit Prince: Le Grand Livre Pop-Up, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, engineered Gallimard Jeunesse, Houghton Mifflin, $38, all ages, 64 pages. One of the most elegant and artful pop-up adaptations is now available in the story's original language, French. In this exquisitely engineered book -- which follows the English version's debut last year -- Jeunesse captures all of the whimsy and poignancy of Saint-Exupery's famous 1943 novella about a pilot who crashes in the Sahara desert and meets an apparition, a prince from another planet. A dialogue begins and the Little Prince recounts his epic journey across the universe and the foolish adults he encounters, from a king who orders stars to do what they would do anyway to a geographer who spends his life making maps but never sees any of the places he's plotting. Along the way, the pilot learns about love and loneliness, and discovers what's most important in life. Though not especially elaborate, the engineering is breathtaking. There is a delicacy to the paper work that delights. In one scene, the prince sits on the top of a planet, his back to the reader and his scarf swept back. Then, with the pull of a tab, the sun sets in front of him then rises at the bottom of the planet. In another, a conceited man in a top hat and yellow-striped suit twirls out on the top of a planet; revolving alone, around himself in a sense, he cannot hear anything that is not a compliment. Charming little mechanisms fill the book, from a turn-wheel that makes words move to suggest they're being read to a tab that, when turned down, causes a snake to rise up. As my husband put it to me, even if you don't know what every word says, the aesthetic of the French language on the page makes it even more magical. Here in French, the story is its most authentic (and what a delightful way to get your French language student inspired to read their French!)

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