Pop-up books, whose hidden magic is lying in wait for a child to discover it, capture the delights of reading intuitively and viscerally—well, the best of them do, anyway. We've gathered together our favorite pop-up books of 2012, from a mini pop-up "theater" to a 3-D atlas and a Star Wars extravaganza, to give you an easy way to ignite your kids' imagination—and gift ideas for any time of year. Plus, Greenlight Bookstore, the shop we voted the best newbie bookstore for city families, is offering Time Out Kids readers an exclusive, online-only discount for the purchase of any of the following books through December 31, 2012. Go to greenlightbookstore.com and enter TONYPOP to receive 20 percent off.
Best pop-up books
At first glance, this book doesn't seem to have any words at all. Flip the pages and all you'll see are intricate, three-layered images that give the 3-D concept a new meaning. But the narrative of the tale of Cinderella is there; it's just hidden behind curtains to the right and left of the theater's 3-D stage. Not only do the pages tell a story that never grows old but they also teach kids about the art of stage design, props, scenery and stage direction included.
This charming, cleverly designed little book by lets early readers learn for themselves what some otherwise abstract sets of opposites mean by interacting with the "happy little yellow box" via pull-tabs and other hands-on mechanics. On one spread, a light (the yellow box) shines in the window of a house in the foreground, then turns off in that house and lights up another house in the distance when a tab is pulled, illustrating the difference between near and far.
The latest pop-up book by artist David A. Carter, originally published by the Tate Museum in London, is a cross between an intricate, modernist piece of art and an I Spy book. The book contains five sculptures, each of which is accompanied by clues for what to look for. So instead of the pop-up illustrating a story, it is the main narrative, and the thing the words point to. Some pages have extra pop-ups hidden behind little doors for curious readers to unfurl themselves.
What if everything you needed to make a toy was contained in the toy's instruction manual? That's just what's going on with this ingenious book by Stephen T. Johnson, author of My Little Red Toolbox: All the parts you'll need to build a cool robot, including bolts and a screwdriver, are embedded in the pages of this book, which tells kids just what to do the parts on that particular page. Slowly but surely, the little blue robot springs to life with the help of its proud builder.
Let's face it: Geography is not always the most compelling grade-school subject. Continents, oceans and polar caps are, on a regular globe, like so many weird-shaped puzzle pieces. That's why this book could be a winner both at home and in schools. It separates continents into different pages, adding fun pop-up elements, like the Toronto's CN Tower, Old Faithful and Mt. McKinley for North America, that tell many stories. More fun facts hidden behind flaps, turn-wheels, and pull-tab elements make it as interactive an atlas as you're ever likely to find.
This visually pleasing counting book presents toddlers with beautifully drawn, whimsical creatures who'll no doubt teach them the difference between "three speedy cheetahs" and "nine leaping lemurs." Each spread presents a certain number of animals, like "eight furry pandas," and hides a numeral, decorated like the animals on the page, under a flap, all set to pop up and reinforce the joys of counting.
Animal lovers will go bah-bah for this farm-themed book, whose pop-up pages can be turned like an ordinary book or pulled out of the box in which it's stored to become an instant pastoral play mat. Tucked inside the envelope built into the front flap are farmers, farm animals and equipment with which rural-leaning tykes can act out a scene of their making.
Got a Star Wars fan in the house? Now you've got yourself the perfect book for him or her too. Each spread has an obvious pop-up element, but with a bit of investigation the reader uncovers layers upon layers of other 3-D surprises, such as that expound on the history of Gungans, Wookiees and the three "battle beasts" that squared off against Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker and Senator Padmé Amidala. Best of all is the pop-up light saber on the last page, which lights up spectacularly.