Flaps to lift, tabs to pull, wheels to turn, an image springing out of a book when you turn the page—you may find any or all of these in a movable book. 

My earliest memory of movable books is pulling a tab to help Hansel and Gretel’s father chop wood by moving his arm up and down.  The book was one of dozens created by Czech artist Vojtech Kubasta and one of two that my sisters and I read almost to pieces.  I still enjoy reading pop-up books myself and sharing them with others, especially during storytime!

The appeal of movable books is centuries old, dating back to 1250, when Matthew Paris, a Benedictine monk, is credited with inventing the volvelle, a disc that readers of circular charts could rotate inside a book, instead of having to turn the tome around to read the information.  Movable pieces were used mostly in scholarly works until 1765, when the first movable books were made for children.  Fast forwarding through Robert Sayer’s “Harlquinades” or “turn-up” books, S & J Fuller’s paper doll books, Dean & Son’s high-quality three-dimensional pictures, Raphael Tuck, the McLoughlin Brothers, E. P. Dutton and Ernest Nister's contributions to the advancement of movable books, Meggendorfer’s single tab, multiple-action scenes, we reach World War I, when the production of movable books stalled.

In 1929, movable books re-emerged when S. Louis Giraud and Theodore Brown produced the first true pop-up books--those activated by turning a page—which they called “spring-ups.”  (The term “pop-up” wasn’t copyrighted until 1932 by Blue Ribbon Press.)  More companies began producing movable books, but it was in the late 1950s, that Artia, a Czechoslovakian, state-run import/export agency, manufactured pop-up books created by Vojtech Kubasta, most based on folk tales.  Inspired by those works, Waldo Hunt of Graphics International in Los Angeles began producing movable and pop-up books, selling his company to Hallmark, which continues to publish them. Today, several different companies are responsible for the 200-plus movable books published in English each year.

"The appeal of pop-up books is the sense of wonder and surprise that comes from seeing paper come to life before your eyes. In the digital age, when so much of our info comes to us through a screen, a great pop-up book rekindles that sense of wonder in even the most jaded adult." – Charles Melcher, founder and president of Melcher Media, a small independent book packager and publisher in New York.   I would add that people both young and old enjoy pop-up books.  (You will find that today, movable books of any kind are referred to as "pop-up" books.) 

To learn more about movable books, their history, and to see some wonderful examples of them, try The Movable Book Society and The Pop-Up Lady

Visit the website of artist and paper engineer Robert Sabuda, creator of many amazing pop-up books, such as The Christmas Alphabet and The Wizard of Oz, for information about his works, a terrific series of answers to questions about pop-up book design and production, and marvelous series of pop-ups that you can make yourself, complete with templates, step-by-step instructions, and photos to lead you through the process.  

Try this one:


If you're more in the mood to read, The Wide-Mouthed Frog by Keith Faulkner and Jonathan Lambert may be just what you need.

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