I am constantly impressed and amazed at the artistry of paper engineers like Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart, who consistently push the limits of this art form in even more outrageous ways. Beyond feats of engineering, however, these accomplished artists are also managing to get their works in the hands of audiences who, just a generation ago, wouldn't have been caught dead reading "pop-up books." Now, far from being limited to toddlers and adult collectors, pop-up books are bringing storytelling to life for readers of all ages.
"STAR WARS: A GALACTIC POP-UP ADVENTURE is definitely meant for upper-elementary aged kids, teens, and grown-ups, all those Star Wars fans looking for the greatest new retelling of their favorite story. They've certainly found it here."
Nowhere is that more true than in STAR WARS: A GALACTIC POP-UP ADVENTURE, Matthew Reinhart's follow-up to his earlier STAR WARS: A POP-UP GUIDE TO THE GALAXY. His earlier volume was a sort of road map to the main characters, geographic locales, vehicles, and vessels composing the Star Wars saga. This new volume is more of a narrative, loosely telling the story of the movies that make up Episodes 1 through 3 of the epic. The first two-page spread is dominated by a scene from young Anakin Skywalker's podrace, while the final spread shows a somewhat older and much more jaded Anakin donning the mask of Darth Vader for the first time.
I won't bother recounting the story of the book; after all, virtually the entire audience for this book will already be more than conversant in the Clone Wars, Order 66, and the rest of the plot unfolding as dramatically as Reinhart's paper sculptures. This is a good thing, too, because the nature of Reinhart's pop-up constructions means that recounting a single linear story is difficult, if not impossible.
So, for the most part, Reinhart doesn't even try. Instead, he focuses on the clever creation not only of these massive page-straddling sculptures that emerge from each spread but also of the dozens of smaller but no less impressive constructions that pop out of literally every corner of the book. Both Reinhart and Sabuda have long structured their pop-up books this way --- with a central focal point and several "mini books" poised around the periphery, each of which contains mini pop-ups as well. What's different and very exciting here is the way in which those smaller books unfold. Rather than working as conventional books, opening in only a single direction, they frequently challenge the reader to discover which side is going to open, which flap will hold the next surprise. Opening not just left to right but also up, down, and even diagonally, these small "books" are wonders of design in their own right.
Perhaps my description of the complexity of every single part of this volume gives you the idea that this book is not for the small or especially clumsy; it's true that very young children might grow frustrated with the unpredictable design, a design that also might make this pop-up even more fragile than most. STAR WARS: A GALACTIC POP-UP ADVENTURE is definitely meant for upper-elementary aged kids, teens, and grown-ups, all those Star Wars fans looking for the greatest new retelling of their favorite story. They've certainly found it here.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on November 28, 2012