A three-dimensional experience

Pop-up book author to teach the art of cutting and folding at library workshop

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published May 7, 2015

 Michigan native Robert Sabuda will return to the state May 9 when he hosts a workshop on pop-up books at the Ferndale Area District Library.

Michigan native Robert Sabuda will return to the state May 9 when he hosts a workshop on pop-up books at the Ferndale Area District Library.

Photos submitted by Robert Sabuda


FERNDALE — Michigan native Robert Sabuda knows the satisfaction of jumping into a good book and being immersed in its world.

Sabuda’s job is to make that world jump out at you.

A Pinckney native, Sabuda currently resides in New York City, where he writes, illustrates and constructs children’s books, many of them pop-up books that show scenes in three dimensions that fold neatly into the pages for easy storage and transportation.

On May 9, Sabuda will bring his talents to the Ferndale Area District Library, where he will talk about his career, show some of his work and hold a workshop to show children and adults how to make their own pop-up books.

“Oftentimes, I come and talk about the history of pop-up books, but I like to do workshops because I feel kids don’t get the opportunity to work with their hands anymore and craft and make things,” Sabuda, 50, said. “Doing crafts was important to me when I was a kid, and it is important for kids today, and I think parents feel bad because their kids don’t get to do it as much as they did.”

As an 8-year-old at a dentist’s office in Michigan, Sabuda found his first pop-up book and immediately fell in love with the medium, he said. After earning a scholarship to the Pratt Institute in New York City, Sabuda left Michigan and began his career as a children’s book artist.

“When I opened that pop-up book in the dentist’s office, I had never seen anything like that,” he said. “I come from a building family where the men are all carpenters and masons, so I saw this and investigated and started to build one. The rest of my creative life, I have always been building and making things with paper, so pop-ups is a natural progression of that.”

Sabuda said he has always been drawn to children’s books and has made a career writing his own books, illustrating others’ words and creating pop-up versions of classic tales, such as “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and “Alice in Wonderland.”

Being a big reader himself, Sabuda said he wanted his books to be a way for children to get interested in books.

“The idea of a world in a book has always been very close to my heart, and if a book is taking you somewhere else and building a world for me, that is going to be a good book,” he said. “So the idea started out as two-dimensional illustration, but why not build an actual world within a book, and I basically taught myself cutting paper and folding and gluing it. The moment when someone turns a page and the world expands right in front of them, that ‘wow’ moment is consistent between 3-year-olds and 93-year-olds across the world.”

In the workshop at the library, Sabuda will teach those in attendance how to fold and cut paper, and how to glue it together to expand into a new world when the page is turned. Sabuda will have some of his books on hand as examples and will provide inspiration where needed.

The program, which is a collaborative effort by the library and the Book Club of Detroit, will provide something new for young readers, Head of Youth Services Ashley Lehman said. Through it, she hopes to create lifelong book enthusiasts.

“I think this is a nice event to encourage creativity throughout all ages,” she said. “Just kids being interested and exploring books at a young age will improve their education. It is very important to get them interested in the world of books and art and writing whenever you can.”

For Sabuda, his eventual career in working with books began at age 8, so he is hoping to provide that same eye-opening moment for other children through his work.

“I truly believe certain things in life are like a calling, as it is rare people fall into teaching or being a doctor, and you rarely meet an artist who said they fell into being an artist; it is a calling,” he said. “At an early age, I was drawing and coloring, and I had great support to make art as a child. You don’t realize how important books are when you are younger, as that comes to fruition when you get older.”

For more information about the event, or to register for a spot in the workshop, call (248) 546-2604, ext. 4.