For anyone who has visited my house, they’ll know I love all things on paper. I love books and I have a collection of comics and children’s books (which I’m ashamedly very protective of). And among some of my favourite things in the whole wide world are pop-up books.
But let me give you a heads up: this post is not necessarily a ‘child-friendly’ area. It can be, and a lot of the books I’ll be talking about here are indeed published and intended for children. But in truth, none of them would last in the hands of a small child.
So, it’s really up to you. You can buy them as very stimulating (but highly ephemeral) experiences for a toddler, or you can buy them as precious beauties for yourself or a dear one (and stash them high enough in your bookshelf).
First of all, my heart has gotta belong to the incredible One Red Dot series. David A. Carter’s books are not just books, but works of art and designs out-and-out.
They have a nostalgic feel, but they are also just an explosion. Literally. An explosion of fun, colour, movement, zest, intelligence, and delicacy. They make me think of Alexander Calder’s incredible mobiles. It’s like someone has grabbed a few by their tails and stuck them onto paper with some glue and mixed it all up with some Matisse, Miró, Mondrian and even Munari.
Sadly, One Red Dot and Blue 2 are now out of print, but still available are 600 Black Spots, Yellow Square and White Noise. The only small downside the series has is that the books are very similar to each other. So you might risk spoiling the magic of one if you get many (and you hear this from someone who has done precisely that).
Then, at number two come the books of lovely Marion Bataille: ABC3D, Numero and 10. Bold, brilliantly executed and more sophisticated in aesthetics, I could imagine them as good gifts for graphic designers or typeface junkies – in fact they sell them in both London and New York Design Museums’ shops (and not in the children’s section). Pop-up book wizard Robert Sabuda has called Bataille’s ABC3D “one of the most delightful and innovative pop-up books [he had] ever seen”.
Again very similar to each other in sensitivity, these books propose a lovely way to see letters and numbers away from the familiar 2D norm. They actually make you think about how letters and numbers are ‘constructed’ and how they may ‘move’ (especially in ‘10’) – which makes them really nice tools to teach children how to recognise and reproduce characters and digits.
Another gift for designers (architects and urbanists will really love this one), is the ultrapopular Popville by Boisrobert and Rigaud. It’s a beautiful and touching poem about the development of a city and its loss of green spaces, without a single word. If you are reading this and you are Italian, think Il ragazzo della via Gluck on paper without the melodrama (if you are English you might have heard the translated version Tar and Cement, sung by Verdelle Smith).
From the same authors, and again with very similar sentiments, there is also In the Forest: another gentle memento about the fragility of our planet and its strength (if we take care of it). Maybe not as original or poignant as its precedent, but it reminded me of Michael Foreman’s delicate Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish, which I used to read in the library when I was a kid. And that can only be a good sign.
Video: Margherita Poggiali
Photography: Dee Ramadan