Susan Carpenter has shared her enthusiasm for YA and children’s books with Times readers here and in her column Not Just For Kids. She is moving on; this will be her last Jacket Copy post.
It starts with a young Anakin Skywalker speeding toward readers in 3-D and ends with an older Anakin as a fallen Jedi, cloaked in black, light saber blazing with a built-in LED. It’s all part of the pop-off-the-page action in “Star Wars: A Galactic Pop-Up Adventure,” Orchard Books/Scholastic written and designed by paper engineer Matthew Reinhart.
Created in collaboration with LucasFilm, the follow-up to Reinhart’s “Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy” is an explosion of pop-ups and pull tabs that explore the characters, vehicles and droids from the three “Star Wars” prequels. We asked the 41-year-old author-illustrator, who is speaking at the “Stars Wars” extravaganza at Once Upon a Time Bookstore in Montrose at p.m. Sunday, to talk about his process for making such an elaborate book.
S.C.: You’re an author and illustrator, but that doesn’t really explain what you do. What term do you use to describe yourself?
M.R.: Pop-up book maker to me sums it all up because you do everything. With the new book, I’m using every bit of space possible, so I have all of these extra, smaller pops that open in a lot of different directions, and I have some new ways of making pop-ups huge. For example, on the second spread, there’s a big monster from “Attack of the Clones” that gets so tall it’s almost like a cobra. I tried to engineer new ways of movement on the page that links up with the excitement of “Star Wars” and really brings you into being a part of that galaxy.
The last pop-up, which shows Anakin turn into a fallen Jedi, is incredible.
I like to see things that transform. There are a few pops that you can see the pieces that already exist, flat on the page, and you move a flap or take those same pieces and rearrange them to make something completely different, like on the last spread. The character becomes the emperor.
That same pop-up incorporates a working light saber. How did you pull that off?
It’s part of the transformation. As you open it, you start to see Anakin Skywalker, and his face folds away and Darth Vader’s face comes up. The light saber lights up with an LED inside the handle and a wire that snakes into the page into the back cover, where there’s a little battery pack. When the pop-up opens, it triggers the light saber. There’s a light saber in the first “Star Wars” book, but the prequel is about Anakin turning into Darth Vader, so the light saber changes from blue to red, which is the bad guy color. Most of my work is what’s called low-tech design, because we’re only using one medium, usually paper, but we’re making it work in all these wild ways.
How do you even learn how to make something so intricate?
When I was young, I was always into making things three dimensional. I’ve been a Star Wars fan since 1977. I’ve collected all the figures. I used to make cities and worlds for them out of cardboard and Styrofoam and construction paper. I was always cutting things up and making a mess. It was a natural progression into adulthood. I studied industrial design and wanted to be a toy designer. I’ve always been very good at 3-D modeling. Pop-ups are a way of merging my illustration and sculpting skills and having them work together in a book.
How long did this take to make?
Eight months. It has to be finished a year before it’s actually on shelves, so I finished last September. Over the last year, I’ve been looking at prototypes and making last-minute changes to make sure everything works perfectly because they’re all made by hand.
At $36.99, the new book isn’t cheap. What tips do you have for readers who want to enjoy it and keep it in good working order?
A lot of kids who have our books, the parents are protective because they like it for themselves. They read the book together, so if there’s a really young one who wants to rip and tear, they say, "This is a special book." The pop will go back in place. You don’t need to force it or smoosh it shut. It’s a matter of being a little bit slower with the pictures, and usually they work pretty darn well and close.
What’s LucasFilm’s involvement in putting the book together?
It’s huge. I’ve read all the “Star Wars” books. I’ve watched all the movies. I keep up with everything that’s going on, so I know a lot. But from the get-go, they’re going over the manuscript and pop-up ideas. In the beginning, we talk about what things to focus on. I have a good idea of what I think is a good large pop, a good small one, and I send them a list. We share similar opinions about how that universe can be presented in an exciting way, but throughout every bit of the process, they have comments.