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Pop-Up Artist Meets Alice in Wonderland

Book cover of Sabuda's <i>Alice</i>.
Book cover of Sabuda's Alice.

Robert Sabuda, creator of the New York Times best-selling pop-up books The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Night Before Christmas, talks with NPR's Scott Simon about his latest three-dimensional extravaganza: the Lewis Carroll children's classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Sabuda has been in love with Alice since he was a child, which was when he began experimenting with paper art. His mother was a secretary at Ford Motor Company, and her young son would eagerly cut up large manila envelopes she brought home from work, folding and pasting the pieces together into realistic patterns and shapes.

While pop-up art is similar to origami, the traditional Japanese art of paper sculpture, Sabuda says the main difference is the end result. Origami is essentially finished in its three dimensional form, whereas the challenge for pop-up art is that a book must be able to make a transition from three dimensions back to two –- over and over again.

Pop-ups are among the last types of books still made individually by hand and the production process is painstaking. For one of the pages in the new book, Alice is caught in a whirlwind of playing cards -– two full decks, 104 cards in all, accurate right down to the suits and royalty.

Sabuda says that as he strives to "make the paper obey," his goal is to create a book full of "wow" moments for his young readers. "Whatever it takes to bring kids back to books -- and back to classical books -- I want to be a part of that," he says.

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.