Robert Sabuda (1965–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
(Robert James Sabuda)
Born 1965, in Pinckney, MI; partner of Matthew Reinhart (an author and illustrator). Education: Pratt Institute, B.F.A. (communication design; summa cum laude), 1987. Hobbies and other interests: Yoga.
Agent—c/o Dunham Literary, Inc., 156 5th Ave., Ste. 625, New York, NY 10010-7002.
Children's book author and illustrator, 1988–.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Movable Book Society, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.
Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies designation, Children's Book Council, and New York Public Library Best Children's Book of the Year designation, both 1990, both for Walden; Magic Reading Award, Parenting magazine, and Hungry Mind Review Children's Book of Distinction designation, both 1992, both for Saint Valentine; Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Award, 1994, for A Tree Place; Gold Medal, Dimension Illustration Awards, 1994, for A Christmas Alphabet.
Saint Valentine, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1992.
Tutankhamen's Gift, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1994.
The Christmas Alphabet (pop-up book), Orchard (New York, NY), 1994.
The Knight's Castle (pop-up book), Golden Books (New York, NY), 1994.
The Mummy's Tomb (pop-up book), Golden Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Help the Animals (pop-up books), 4 volumes, Reader's Digest, 1995.
Arthur and the Sword, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1995.
The Twelve Days of Christmas (pop-up book), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.
ABC Disney (pop-up book), Disney Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Cookie Count: A Tasty Pop-Up, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.
The Blizzard's Robe, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1999.
The Movable Mother Goose (pop-up book), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.
(Reteller) L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (pop-up book), Little Simon (New York, NY), 2000.
(With partner, Matthew Reinhart) Young Naturalist's Pop-up Handbook: Butterflies, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2001.
(With Matthew Reinhart) Young Naturalist's Pop-up Handbook: Beetles, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2001.
The Adventures of Providence Traveler, 1503: Uh-oh, Leonardo!, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2002.
(Reteller) Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (pop-up book), Little Simon (New York, NY), 2003.
(With Matthew Reinhart) Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2005.
Winter's Tale (pop-up book), Little Simon (New York, NY), 2005.
(With Matthew Reinhart) Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Sharks and Other Sea Monsters, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2006.
Eugene Coco, The Fiddler's Son, Green Tiger Press, 1988.
Eugene Coco, The Wishing Well, Green Tiger Press, 1988.
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Henry David Thoreau, Walden, text selections by Steve Lowe, Putnam (New York, NY), 1990.
Walt Whitman, I Hear America Singing, Putnam (New York, NY), 1991.
J. Patrick Lewis, Earth Verses and Water Rhymes, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1991.
Christopher Columbus, The Log of Christopher Columbus, text selections by Steve Lowe, Putnam (New York, NY), 1992.
Roy Owen, The Ibis and the Egret, Putnam (New York, NY), 1993.
Constance Levy, A Tree Place and Other Poems, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Nancy Williams, A Kwanzaa Celebration (pop-up book), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.
Marguerite W. Davol, The Paper Dragon, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1997.
Clement C. Moore, The Night before Christmas, Little Simon (New York, NY), 2002.
Katharine Lee Bates, America the Beautiful, Little Simon (New York, NY), 2004.
Kyle Olmon, Sabuda and Reinhart Present Castle, Orchard (New York, NY), 2006.
Robert Sabuda is an author and illustrator who has received wide-ranging acclaim as one of the foremost designers of interactive "pop-up" books. His delightful creations for the preschool set incorporate bright colors, stand-out graphics, and what a School Library Journal contributor termed "striking" examples of paper engineering in a review of A Kwanzaa Celebration. Sabuda has designed graphic illustrations for such classic works as the tales of Mother Goose, Henry David Thoreau's Walden, and a 1991 edition of nineteenth-century American poet Walt Whitman's I Hear America Singing. The busy Sabuda has also built a solid reputation as a traditional illustrator by bringing to life such picture books as The Tree Place and Other Poems, by Constance Levy, and The Ibis and the Egret, by Roy Owen.
In addition to his work as an illustrator, and as a way to allow himself greater creative latitude, Sabuda has also penned several original stories, including Saint Valentine, Tutankhamen's Gift, and The Blizzard's Robe, all of which feature his unique artwork. The Blizzard's Robe, a story about the origin of the Northern Lights, was praised for both its text and illustrations. School Li-brary Journal contributor Tina Hudak called it a "tale of survival and compassion … [that] will warm the hearts of children and adults alike."
Born in 1965 and raised in a small, rural Michigan town, Sabuda always knew he would be an artist when he grew up; among his favorite illustrators were Tomi Ungerer, Arnold Lobel, and Norman Bridwell. Sabuda first discovered pop-up picture books after a horrible trip to the dentist. Waiting in the lobby the next time he visited the dentist, he found a thick and heavy book. "When I opened it, I was shocked and delighted when something leapt right off the page," he told Patricia J. Murphy for Highlights for Children. "I forgot all about the dentist."
"I should have known I was going to be a children's book illustrator when I presented my mom with The Wizard of Oz ('a pop-up book complete with cyclone!') made with my own dirty little hands," Sabuda once recalled to SATA. "My bedroom was a mess from all my projects. Now I get paid to make messes! My mother can't believe it (but of course she's thrilled; she was sure I'd starve to death)!" Sabuda credits his knack for engineering to his father, who was a mason and carpenter in addition to working as a tool-and-die maker. He explained to Murphy that he experimented over and over as a child. "With each failure … I learned a better solution, one that I wouldn't have even imagined," Sabuda said.
Attending New York's Pratt Institute after high school, Sabuda graduated summa cum laude in 1987. With his B.F.A. in communications design in hand, he began his first illustration project for Green Tiger Press: a pair of books he designed with writer Eugene B. Coco titled The Fiddler's Son and The Wishing Well. In the late 1990s Sabuda returned to Pratt to teach a course in the craft of pop-up design. As he explained in a Publishers Weekly interview, "There isn't a place you can go to learn how to make pop-ups. I learned by experimenting, and looking at my favorites to see how things were done."
Sabuda's Cookie Count: A Tasty Pop-Up reflects the author/illustrator's whimsical approach to his art. In the story, an ever-growing number of spatula-wielding mice stir up batch after batch of delicious cookies: everything from Linzer cookies to a gingerbread house. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly was impressed by Sabuda's "elaborate" two-page spreads, "each more inventive than the last." In a review of The Movable Mother Goose for School Library Journal, contributor John Peters noted that Sabuda "is as much an artist as a paper engineer, capable not only of designing cutting-edge special effects, but of using them in ingeniously creative ways."
Sabuda designs pop-up history in his The Knight's Castle and The Mummy's Tomb, helping relics from the past pop into the present, accompanied by simple rhyming texts and a small mouse hidden in the illustrations
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on each page. By opening and closing the pages, "the figures can be made to move in amusing ways," commented Horn Book contributor Lolly Robinson. Sabuda has also illustrated nonfiction texts for other authors, including A Kwanzaa Celebration, in which his pop-up designs "extend" the text, according to Henrietta M. Smith in Booklist.
Sabuda retells L. Frank Baum's classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, abridging the tale and providing extensive pop-up art to accompany Baum's story. In the center of the book, the Emerald City stretches out on a full two-page spread; other prominent features of the story are the silver shoes of the Wicked Witch of the East sticking out from beneath Dorothy's house, and, like Sabuda's childhood inspiration, the cyclone that lifts Dorothy's house to Oz. "Baum himself would have been enchanted with this inventive interpretation of his famous fairy tale," wrote Horn Book reviewer Michael Patrick Hearn.
Using the traditional Christmas poem by Clement C. Moore, Sabuda created The Night before Christmas, incorporating white paper for all the pop-ups, movable parts, and flaps. Sabuda explained to Shannon Maughan of Publishers Weekly why he chose to use all-white paper. "I think it goes back to when I was a boy in ru-ral Michigan. The winters were so big there," he wrote. "Everything was so white. We would build all kinds of snow forts and snowmen. I always go back to the pure simplicity of exploring shapes in white. I have not lost my love for that yet." Susan Patron commented in School Library Journal on the "clever techniques, original design, and a unique graphic style" that make Sabuda's work stand out.
Providence Traveler, daring mouse explorer, is the heroine of The Adventures of Providence Traveler, 1503: Uh-oh, Leonardo! Accidentally transported back in time with her friends, Providence encounters Leonardo da Vinci, her hero. "The bright pencil-and-watercolor cartoons are packed with loads of cultural information about old Florence," wrote Christine E. Carr in School Library Journal, who noted the book's educational value. Booklist reviewer Karin Snelson commented on the book's "colorful, mouse-eye's view of Renaissance culture."
Sabuda adapts another classic novel as a pop-up book in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Abridging Lewis Carroll's classic children's book, Sabuda was inspired by the originally published illustrations of Sir John Tenniel. He told Joy Bean for Publishers Weekly that he "sort of leaned to Tenniel's original illustrations. If you're paying homage to something, I agree with the adage, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it.'" Sabuda chose to adapt Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, he told Bean, because it had been a favorite in his childhood. "When reading the book as a child, the artist said he was struck by the wordplay throughout the story," explained Bean, who then quoted Sabuda as saying, 'It was so silly and it was the adults who were so silly, which wasn't common at the time.'"
Carroll, who himself worked paper-engineering projects, "would be pleased" with this adaptation, according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor, while a Publishers Weekly reviewer felt that "readers will be astonished by every tableau in this pop-up extravaganza." Anita L. Burkam, in Horn Book, noted of Sabuda's abridgement that "the story moves at an over-fast pace but still manages to cohere," and concluded that the pop-up makes "a cunning addition to any Alice collection." The book "establish[es] Sabuda as the foremost visionary of the genre," according to Jennifer Mattson in Booklist.
America the Beautiful takes the words of the song by Katharine Lee Bates and uses them to create a pop-up trip across the United States. Covering such locations as Mount Rushmore, the National Capitol, the Statue of Liberty, and the Golden Gate Bridge, all done in white paper and occasional foil trim, America the Beautiful introduces readers to many of the nation's landmarks. "Each opening will elicit gasps, and the poem's soaring imagery has never been better served," wrote John Peters in Booklist. A Kirkus Reviews contributor considered the book "a masterpiece in design, in execution, in boldness of vision, and in artistic and historical integrity."
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With his partner Matthew Reinhart, Sabuda has worked on two books exploring prehistoric animals: Encyclopedai Prehistorica: Dinosaurs and Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Sharks and Other Sea Monsters. The first title features creatures from the Mesozoic era, all standing up from the page in multi-colored hides. "The coauthors balance the lively 3D material with sidebars on extinction, palentologists' discoveries,… and practical details," wrote a Publishers Weekly critic. The book will be "gobbled up as voraciously as one spread's allosaurus tucks into a lump of dinoflesh," assured Mattson in Booklist. Joy Fleishhacker, writing in School Library Journal, noted that "the book is so enticing that children will find it impossible to keep their hands off it."
Sabuda's solo title, Winter's Tale, celebrates a snow-covered winter environment, and like The Night before Christmas and America the Beautiful, all of the moving pieces and pop-up art are done in white paper. Sabuda explained to an interviewer for the Powells Books Web site where he came up with the idea for Winter's Tale: "During winter when I was a boy, my father would walk with me through the snow-covered terrain of rural Michigan and point out all the different animal tracks. He knew exactly which track belonged to which animal. Winter's Tale is a celebration of all those winter animals." A critic for Kirkus Reviews commented that "one is hard-pressed to find appropriate superlatives for this wonderful new offering," and Claire E. Gross, in Horn Book, considered the book a "paper-engineered miracle of bright white ingenuity."
Sabuda normally designs a book over the course of eight months. "We sketch with scissors, not pencils," the artist told Martha Pickerill of Time for Kids. Once designed, the books are hand-assembled by teams of over 1,000 workers, who produce about 15,000 copies in a week, according to the Entertainment Weekly reporter. On his home page, Sabuda described how he looks at his work: "It's hard work but the best part is not having to worry about making a mess. When being an artist is your job, you can make as many messes as you want to!"
Biographical and Critical Sources
Advocate, December 25, 2001, Michael Glitz, "Not Just Kid Stuff," p. 66.
Book, September-October, 2003, review of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, p. 41.
Booklist, November 15, 1992, p. 603; April 15, 1994, Ilene Cooper, review of Tutankhamen's Gift, p. 1537; November 1, 1995, Kathy Broderick, review of Arthur and the Sword, p. 478; September 1, 1996, review of The Twelve Days of Christmas, p. 138; October 15, 1997, Susan Dove Lempke, review of The Paper Dragon, p. 402; December 15, 1997, review of Cookie Count: A Tasty Pop-Up, p. 700; November 15, 1999, Linda Perkins, review of The Blizzard's Robe, p. 637; December, 1999, Ilene Cooper, review of The Movable Mother Goose, p. 786; February 15, 2001, Henrietta M. Smith, review of A Kwanzaa Celebration, p. 1161; June 1, 2003, Karin Snelson, review of The Adventures of Providence Traveler, 1503: Uh-oh, Leonardo!, p. 1779; November 1, 2003, Jennifer Mattson, "Alice Pops Up," p. 513; January 1, 2004, review of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, p. 782; November 15, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of America the Beautiful, p. 578; July, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs, p. 1929; September 1, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of Winter's Tale, p. 146.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 1998, Deborah Stevens, review of Cookie Count, p. 359; December, 1998, Deborah Stevenson, review of ABC Disney, p. 145.
Child, October, 2003, Julie Yates Walton, review of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, p. 48.
Entertainment Weekly, June 10, 2005, Tina Jordan, review of Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs, p. 118; December 16, 2005, "The King of Pop-ups," p. 89.
Five Owls, January, 1993, p. 63.
Highlights for Children, March, 2006, Patricia J. Murphy, "Popping in with Robert Sabuda," p. 34.
Horn Book, spring, 1993, p. 87; spring, 1995, Lolly Robinson, review of The Knight's Castle, p. 53; spring, 1999, Peter D. Sieruta, review of ABC Disney, p. 42; September, 2000, Michael Patrick Hearn, review of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, p. 547; November-December, 2003, Anita L. Burkam, review of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, p. 735; September-October, 2005, Danielle J. Ford, review of Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs, p. 607.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 1992, p. 1447; October 15, 1995, review of Arthur and the Sword, p. 1500; April 1, 2003, review of The Adventures of Providence Traveler, 1503, p. 539; September 15, 2003, review of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, p. 1181; December 1, 2003, review of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, p. 1405; October 1, 2004, review of America the Beautiful, p. 968; September 1, 2005, review of Winter's Tale, p. 982; November-December, 2005, Claire E. Gross, review of Winter's Tale, p. 697.
Library Journal, January, 1993, p. 17; May, 1993, p. 26.
New Advocate, spring, 1993, p. 140.
Newsweek, September 26, 2005, Bao Ong, "Pop Culture Phenomenon," p. 9.
Publishers Weekly, August 16, 1991, review of I Hear America Singing, p. 59; December 20, 1991, review of The Log of Christopher Columbus, p. 83; October 26, 1992, p. 72; October 23, 1993, review of The Ibis and the Egret, p. 61; October 17, 1994, review of The Knight's Castle, p. 80; September 18, 1995, review of A Kwanzaa Celebration, p. 94; September 30, 1996, review of The Twelve Days of Christmas, p. 88; November 25, 1996, Cindi Di Marzo, "In the Studio with Robert Sabuda," p. 30; December 1, 1997, review of Cookie Count, p. 55; October 25, 1999, review of The Movable Mother Goose, p. 79; November 29, 1999, review of The Blizzard's Robe, p. 70; December 8, 2002, Shannon Maughan, "Pop! Go the Sales," p. 19; February 10, 2003, review of The Adventures of a Providence Traveler, 1503, p. 187; September 22, 2003, review of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, p. 101; September 29, 2003, Joy Bean, "A Double Take on Alice," p. 25; November 10, 2003, review of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, p. 36; September 13, 2004, review of America the Beautiful, p. 77; June 20, 2005, review of Winter's Tale, p. 75, and review of Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs, p. 77.
Reading Teacher, April, 1993, p. 592.
School Library Journal, November, 1992, p. 86; April, 1994, Meg Stackpole, review of A Tree Place, p. 140; October, 1995, review of A Kwanzaa Celebration, p. 43; November, 1997, Margaret A. Chang, review of The Paper Dragon, p. 79; October, 1999, Tina Hudak, review of The Blizzard's Robe, p. 125; February, 2000, John Peters, review of The Movable Mother Goose, p. 97; October, 2002, Susan Patron, review of The Night before Christmas, p. 61; June, 2003, Christine E. Carr, review of The Adventures of Providence Traveler, 1503, p. 116; November, 2004, John Peters, review of America the Beautiful, p. 130; September, 2005, Joy Fleishhacker, review of Winter's Tale, p. 186, and review of Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs, p. 195.
Time for Kids, September 23, 2005, Martha Pickerill, "The Kings of Pop," p. 7.
Powells Books Web site, http://www.powells.com/ (April 25, 2006), interview with Sabuda.
Robert Sabuda Home Page, http://www.robertsabuda.com (April 25, 2006).
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