Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide #7: Things That Pop

Book meets toy: the novelty book. Here are some of my favorites.

Pop-Up London, by Jennie Maizels, paper engineering by Richard Ferguson, Candlewick, $19.99, ages 5-9, 2012. Baroque architecture rises from the pages of this entrancing book, and tempts readers to go in close and peak around building corners. Gorgeously rendered in pen-and-ink, each spread leads readers from one famous part of London to the next. A small booklet at the top of each spread describes what it's like to enter a particular district or landmark, then summaries it's significance, shares secrets about it and asks questions that readers must then search to answer (on the ground and behind buildings). Diminutive flaps, hidden pictures and pop-ups turn this book into an adventure. Among the many delights: two sculls that race on the river Thames along slits, and a scene inside Buckingham Palace that shows royals gathered at a banquet and dancing. The palace's interior walls are detailed like a finely furnished doll house: a two-story scene of butlers rushing about and the king and queen waving from a balcony. Another page features a pop-up of the London Eye, which readers erect by folding back a tab.

Any child who loves cities, architecture or miniatures will be dazzled -- and, chances are, they'll soon be begging for a trip to London. This isn't just a pop-up; it's an experience. The book transports readers into the city on a scavenger hunt down the Thames, in and out of lanes and even across a 3-D Tower Bridge, the grand finale. Best parts: Every little detail. This is one of the best pop-ups I've seen. Readers will want to lay it open on the dresser and imagine they're tiny enough to walk around the page. The only hard part will be deciding which district to display. 

Popposites: The Pop-Up Opposites Book!, by Mike Haines and Keith Finch, Kingfisher, $16.99, ages 3 and up, 2012. Few books of opposites can match this one. The creators of Wild Alphabet return with a clever spin on opposites. Every page has unique tabs that when rotated or pulled transform one scene into its opposite. The authors begin by contrasting old things with new, and as readers turn a tab, an ancient pyramid rises into the sky and becomes the roof of a modern skyscraper.  Every layout is unique and whimsical. On one page, readers look into an empty portal, then turn a tab and six faces slide out from the edges looking back at them. On another, readers learn about the extremes of sound: an elephant stands quietly with his trunk down, then with the pull of a tab, he raises his trunk and opens his mouth to suggest he's trumpeting. Another favorite shows a flying arrow (the past) transforming into a soaring rocket ship (the present). My only caution is that pull tabs can be stiff at first -- I found this particularly true of a zipper used to show "together" and "apart" -- so it's good for parents to loosen the tabs up a little before passing it on to a small child.  Best parts: A lesson about up and down: as readers pull a tab, a dapper man climbs a staircase and a boy slides down on a railing. And a page about big and little: readers see Earth floating in a circle of stars and as they pull a tab, a hand closes around it, making our planet look suddenly tiny, which when compared to the universe, it truly is! To read my 2010 review of Wild Alphabet click here.

The Wizard of Oz: A Classic Story Pop-Up Book With Sounds, by L. Frank Baum & Paul Hess, design and paper-engineering by Andy Mansfield, retold by Libby Hamilton, Silver Dolphin, $18.95. ages 4 and up, 2010. A twister as tall as a ruler pops up from the fold and triggers blustery sounds that transport readers into the action of L. Frank Baum's classic novel. In this atmospheric remake of The Wizard of Oz, readers see five scenes from the story rise from the page as they read an abridged narrative of the classic. When each pop-up opens, a tab slides at the fold to turn on sound effects, ranging from the cackling of flying monkeys to a crescendo of orchestral music at the gates of Oz. In the first pop-up, Toto barks frantically, a cow bellows and the wind rattles about, sucking up everything in its path. Auntie Em and Uncle Henry's farmhouse spins at the top of vortex, with a shocked Dorothy staring out the window. Opposite is a giant uprooted tree flipped upside down, while below, a tractor whirls around with a cow rising from below. Under that, they see the narrowing tail of the tornado cutting a path across a swath of checkerboard farmland. The perspective is fantastic as it gives readers the feeling they're hovering in the sky nearby. It is the most stunning of the pop-ups and is the one readers are likely to open over and over. Soon Dorothy has landed in Oz and in the next pop-up she helps grease the Tin Man back to life as readers listen to his gears creak and jaunty orchestral music. Other pop-ups show the Emerald City rising like a palace, the flying monkeys carrying Dorothy and Toto away and the great head of Oz: a colorful mask-like visage. This pop-up is far less intricate than Robert Sabuda's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but that also makes it more accessible for small children. I missed not seeing a pop-up of the Wicked Witch under the house, yet I was pleased that the illustrations were playful and not scary. Overall, this is a charming way to introduce young children to a classic. Best part: The perspective of looking down at the tornado, sensing the sheer height of it, while listening to the sounds of livestock and branches getting pitched into the air. Watch a trailer here!

For more pop-up fun, check out these other great titles:

Hide and Seek, by David A. Carter, Tate Publishing (Abrams), $24.95, ages 3 and up, 2012.

One Spotted Giraffe: A Counting Pop-Up Book, by Petr Horacek, Candlewick, $15.99, ages 3 and up, 2012.

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