Thursday, 17 December 2009

Pop goes the book

There’s something magical about pop-up books, particularly Christmas ones. There’s something about intricate, paper staircases that draws your fingers to tiptoe to the top and down again. There’s something about doorways and windows that encourages you to push your face into the folds and admire the layered view. My favourite is the story of The Nutcracker.

You open the pages and out pops another world, it really is like magic. The book was flat and all of a sudden it’s a fan of colour and textures. Sometimes a book like this needs to be read at eye level – suddenly you aren’t spectating , you’re there, in the book meeting the characters and running up their staircases. It's like being in a fairy tale as Tom Thumb or the later Thumbelina, and getting to see life in miniature.

For eleven months of the year my copy of The Nutcracker lives in the loft with the other Christmas books. When it is finally December, a place is cleared on a bookcase and the Christmas books are greeted like old friends. Occasionally there are squabbles over The Nutcracker, occasionally I get hoarse from reading it to each child individually on the same night, occasionally the paper gets damaged and Clara and the others are rescued by fine strands of sticky tape. The book must say something to the children about the magic of Christmas, perhaps something along the lines of: if paper staircases can pop out of books, surely Father Christmas can pop down the chimney?

The story of The Nutcracker doesn't need pop-up pictures in order to captivate an audience: it has adventure, magic, romance, fighting, snow and dancing sweets! I don't write stories about any of these things and I don't use illustrations, which means that the words have to pop off the pages and fold themselves into tiny pictures of life instead: it's just a matter of working out how to do it.

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