Books to make your eyes pop out

One of the new picture books at the UCL Institute of Education, Librarian (2017), takes us to a public library for its 50th birthday – a very apt story at a time when so many public libraries get closed. One boy stands aside sadly; he admits that he simply does not like books. The resourceful woman librarian asks him about his favourite thing and proceeds to find a book about spaceships for him, but not an ordinary one: the boy opens it, and out pops a rocket and a planet made up of cardboard! The child leaves with three library books and shiny eyes.

Like the Librarian in the picture book, we have astronomy books with three-dimensional images: The story of stars (2013) with whole constellations surfacing and Halley’s comet (1985) with the historical observatory in Greenwich popping up… then a big orange telescope… then an intricate spacecraft hovering high above the page!


Have a look at the astronomy section in the Newsam Library for many more richly illustrated non-fiction works about the universe, like 100 things to know about space (2016).

They will surely attract girls and boys, even if the all-encompassing fever of the first space flights has abated!

At the IOE, we have plenty more titles with fold-out and pop-up features, flaps to lift and wheels to turn in our Curriculum Resources Collection.

No less sophisticated than the spaceships is the 3D Tower Bridge in Pop-up London (2011). Earthly treasure (2008) hides a volcanic eruption and a splash of gold and jewels, while The rabbit problem (2009) has a veritable explosion of rabbits. Rabbits? It’s to explain a mathematical problem where numbers explode… So even maths can be brought to life by a bunch of paper cut-outs.

For history, look at the 3D Bayeux tapestry in Halley’s comet: King Harold’s courtiers point up to the portentous shooting star, and when you pull a flap, it comes down on their heads, and the King falls off his throne, dead.

The cover of one recent acquistion, How machines work (2015), reveals a mini-machine with movable cog-wheels in transparent compartments in the cover, which may entice a child to open the book in the first place. Inside, there are no more actual mechanical features, but lots of flaps to appeal to readers who like touching and moving things.

Did you know pop-up books have been around a long time? Books, books, books (2017)   mentions paper-engineering in a medical work from around 1900. This picture book about treasures of the British Library is strewn with things that fascinate children, like monsters and skeletons, while ancient handwritten or printed texts form the backdrop like a kind of tapestry. The Brothers Grimm grope through a fairy-tale forest of huge old books, and Beowulf wrangles with a monster covered in quaint millennium-old script. These montages, are partly, as the authors reveal, made with scissors and glue, which could be an inspiration to children and teachers!

Books, books, books abounds with facts and figures which will catch boys’ attention in particular: the atlas of King Charles II. is literally man-high, at 178 cm… the Vikings stole the bejewelled cover of the Lindisfarne Gospels… Leonardo da Vinci designed machines which may help scientists to land on Mars! Women authors, characters, and owners are also well-represented, from lesser-known Anne Brontë to “superstar cookbook writer” Mrs Beeton.

Hopefully, at some stage reluctant readers will realize that creatures can pop out of the pages of books, not made of paper, nor of ink, but of your own imagination. Are these figments not even more real than papercraft?

Not too real, either, unlike the rather unpleasant fellows who emerge from books and threaten the readers in Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart (2003), also available at the Newsam Library. The writer of the book in the story has created a parallel reality; this is what Funke has visualised vividly.

Apart from books with mechanical features, the Newsam Library also holds reading matter for people who, for various reasons, struggle with reading: fiction which has either been simplified or simply worded from the outset.

For those ‘easy readers’, also try the search-term ‘high-interest low-vocabulary books’. We have some gripping and topical stories for teenagers, for example about addiction to computer games or soap operas. It struck me that some of those stories describe a similar phenomenon as Inkheart: the border between virtual and real worlds get blurred.

The librarian in the picture book mentioned above is portrayed with an arrow pointing to her head: “Knowledge about books”! If you are not sure how to find teaching resources on the catalogue or on the shelves, ask our Curriculum Resources Librarian, Sally Perry, or any of us, and we shall be delighted to help you.


Illustrations: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Halley’s Comet on the Bayeux TapestryStamp of 1963: Scanned by Darjac.

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