pop-up books and Jan Pienkowski’s The Haunted House


I really enjoyed this article… and found her mention of studies into pop-ups and memory (as well as the paucity of such studies) interesting… Lisa Boggiss Boyce writes:

“Pop-up books have always been expensive to make and worldwide sales are of paramount importance. Their production is an intensive process, often requiring large amounts of hand-assembly; moreover, the books are rarely suitable for republication in paperback form. As a result they need to be manufactured in large quantities to be commercially viable and co-editions, in as many languages as possible, are key to this outcome. To make the language changes without incurring further, possibly overwhelming costs, the type is produced on a fifth, black only, printing plate.” (p.248)

“As yet beliefs about how children ‘‘read’’ moveable books have been subjected neither to empirical study nor to the hypotheses of criticism. It may be that children marvel briefly at the technical ingenuity involved, but then move on. The only evidence seems to be anecdotal, and generally parental.” (p.254, quoting Fox, 1998, p. 105)

“In a very small empirical study of pop-ups in Amsterdam, research was carried out using the books of Ron van der Meer (Avella, 2006, p. 108), which concluded that a reader retains 75% of all the information in a pop-up book compared with 20% retained reading traditional formats. Contributory factors appear to be the following: the fact that the book is read three times, once for the words and illustrations, again to experiment with the mechanisms and then once again to experience these elements in combination. Also, the fact that more senses than just reading are used. If we accept that knowledge of the ending does not make a good story redundant, that children can enjoy texts from early picture books to fairy tales over and over again, then why shouldn’t this be the case for pop-up books as well? Of course, clever mechanisms alone will not make a good pop-up book. Excellence of narrative and illustration along with technically ingenious paper-engineering, the quality of the used spaces, the spaces between, and the spaces transformed, are what is needed to produce a truly wonderful pop-up book, as Haunted House proves.” (p.254)

“The simple delights of a pop-up book can conceal all sorts of powerful methods of engaging and entertaining children, thereby enhancing the reading experience. The way that pop-ups empower readers to take control of the temporal sequencing, moving back and forward through them as they wish, and their ability to amuse and surprise even through repeated readings, inspire strong memories in readers.” (p.254)

“The allure of what Iona and Peter Opie called ‘‘their bookish format conceal[ing] unbookish characteristics’’ (Opie et al., 1975) is also fundamental to their broad appeal.” (p.255)

Ref: Lisa Boggiss Boyce (2011) ‘Pop Into My Place: An Exploration of the Narrative and Physical Space in Jan Pienkowski’s Haunted House’ Children’s Literature in Education 42: 243-255

Reference is to:  Opie, Iona and Peter (1975, September 19). Books that Turn to Life: Turn-up Books, Times Literary Supplement.


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