Children's books are popping out all over Intricately designed, pop-ups introduce art, nature, technology

July 29, 1993|By Deborah Yu | Deborah Yu,Los Angeles Daily News

They have tabs to pull, flaps to open and wheels to spin. They talk about bugs, planes, fairy tales, and even the fabulous Faberge eggs.

Pop-up books, a growing segment of the juvenile book industry, are rising in popularity among children and adults at a time when the overall growth in that industry has slowed. Analysts say the economy and competition have slowed sales growth of all juvenile books from a 20 percent rate in 1989 to 8 percent last year.

"Pop-up books [sales] are growing substantially," says Chuck Gates, chief executive officer and president of Intervisual Books Inc. in Santa Monica, Calif.

The company, which included its popular pop-up book "Haunted House" in its annual report, was listed in May by Business Week as one of the 100 best small U.S. companies.

Arnold Shapiro, a co-founder of Intervisual Books before he left to start his own company, says his Compass Productions is developing a pop-up book on Faberge eggs -- the enameled eggs made for Russian czars, starting in 1884, by imperial jeweler Peter Faberge

The two California companies -- which develop and produce pop-up books for publishing companies to sell -- say some of their most popular creations include "Haunted House" by Jan Pienkowski, "How Many Bugs in a Box?" by David Carter, "The Wheels on the Bus," by Paul Zelinsky and the "Who Sees You" series by Carla Dijs.

Pop-ups originated as books for adults, not children, according to James Sinski, professor emeritus at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He has studied pop-ups for 20 years.

In the 1500s, Italian cosmology books used the first version of pop-ups: A series of overlapping concentric circles that moved. The circles were used to explain the scientific text.

Mr. Sinski says the first golden age of pop-up books stretched from the 1880s to the turn of the century in Germany and England, where creators took the original ideas and made them more elaborate.

However, he says it wasn't until the 1930s that pop-ups as we know them to day were developed. Since then, pop-up books have become even more sophisticated.

In "Poetry of Flowers" (Harry Abrams Inc., $17.95), the pop-up shows a flower slowly opening its petals. "How Many Bugs in a Box?" (Orchard Books, $11.95) has boxes that open to reveal yellow "noodle bugs" or "space bugs."

For an older crowd, "Planes of the Aces" (Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc., $14.95) shows three-dimensional pop-ups of aircraft including the "Tornado Gr. 1" used in the Persian Gulf War. Mr. Gates says the creation of a pop-up book from idea to publishing takes from six months to two years. The creator of the pop-up generally sells his or her idea to a publisher, who asks pop-up companies to produce it.

A team of creators works on illustrating the book and creating the pop-up. The art of creating three-dimensional paper cutouts is called paper engineering, Mr. Gates says, and no school teaches it.

Instead, the craft is passed on from one artist to another as they work together.

Because each book is hand-assembled, quality printing and inexpensive labor are essential for production of pop-ups, producers say. Most pop-ups are printed overseas, in Hong Kong, Singapore, Colombia and other countries.

Mr. Sinski says that a new group called the Movable Book Society is being formed in New Brunswick, N.J., for pop-up book enthusiasts.

With its craftsmanship, Mr. Gates compares pop-ups to Faberge eggs, which are rare collectors' items, prized their intricate designs.

Mr. Sinski says a 16th-century reproduction of a "pop-up" cosmology book now is worth $12,000.

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