Robert Sabuda Biography

Robert Sabuda – American illustrator, b. 1965

robert sabuda
Robert Sabuda

Robert Sabuda had already illustrated several children’s books when, in 1992, he was struggling to design a unique Christmas-themed book that did not copy holiday books already on the market. When friends suggested that the native of Pinckney, Michigan, consider creating a pop-up book, the idea appealed to him.

Since he had grown up in a low-income household, Sabuda owned many Hallmark pop-up volumes, as they were some of the cheapest books for children on the market at the time. Drawing upon his mem­ories of these books, as well as the work of innovators such as Czech artist Vojtech Kubasta, Sabuda taught himself the art of paper engi­neering.

The result was an alphabet book, The Christmas Alphabet (1994), a departure from tra­ditional pop-up books in which pull-tabs and levers animate only a small part of the picture. The Christmas Alphabet established Sabuda’s signature full-moving-image pop-up style. Rather than the usual full-color format, Sabuda’s pop-up designs are intricately cut in pure white paper that emphasizes the details of the piece: a candle glimmers, a dove flies, and a gift, when opened, reveals the kitten inside.

He continued the Yuletide theme in The 12 Days of Christmas (1996). In Sabuda’s hands, the book animates the traditional holiday song: four French hens move their necks to peek out of their cage, seven swans swim in a snow-flecked snow globe, eight maids a-milking jump off a cookie tray, and the eleven ladies dancing are ballerinas on a music box.

Robert Sabuda’s other notable pop-ups include Cookie Count (1997), The Movable Mother Goose (1999), and ABC Disney (1998), in which doors open to reveal full-color painted pictures of fa­miliar Disney characters: Bambi slips on the ice and goes sprawling, the Queen of Hearts bellows while waving her flamingo croquet mallet, and Aladdin’s genie pops out of his bottle in a cloud of swirling smoke.

The Wonderful Wiard of Oz, Robert Sabuda. First edition, 2000.
The Wonderful Wiard of Oz, Robert Sabuda. First edition, 2000.

One of Sabuda’s greatest achievements is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: A Commemorative Pop- Up (2000), which celebrates the centennial pub­lication of the book by L. Frank Baum. Rather than drawing inspiration from the 1939 MGM film or creating an original look, Sabuda based his artwork on W. W. Denslow’s original illus­trations for the book. Sabuda’s designs, with a Kansas cyclone that moves, a hot-air balloon that goes aloft, and a truly sinister castle of the Wicked Witch of the West, made Oz a critically acclaimed bestseller. That same year, he joined Maurice Sendak and ten other illustrators in Brooklyn Pops Up, a collaboration celebrating New York City’s most populous borough.

Robert Sabuda, who was trained at the Pratt Insti­tute, has been just as successful when illustrating in other styles. His collages for Marguerite W. Davol’s The Paper Dragon (1997) and his own Saint Valentine (1992) are impressive, while Ar­thur and the Sword (1995), which uses actual stained glass in the illustrations, is one of his finest efforts and proves that his artistic abilities extend well beyond the world of pop-up illus­trations.


Source: Children’s Books and their Creators, Anita Silvey.

Robert Sabuda Pop-ups & Illustrated Books

Illustrated Books
  • Garrett, Randal; Heydron, Vicki Ann (1986). The Gandalara Cycle I. Bantam Spectra.
  • Sabuda, Robert (1987). Fire Engine (A Bulky Board Book). Modern Publishing.
  • Sabuda, Robert (1987). Helicopter (A Bulky Board Book). Modern Publishing.
  • Sabuda, Robert (1987). Magic Carpet (A Bulky Board Book). Modern Publishing.
  • Sabuda, Robert (1987). Tugboat (A Bulky Board Book). Modern Publishing.
  • Coco, Eugene Bradley; Sabuda, Robert (1988). The Fiddler’s Son. Green Tiger Press.
  • Coco, Eugene Bradley; Sabuda, Robert (1988). The Wishing Well. Green Tiger Press.
  • Lowe, Steve; Thoreau, Henry David; Sabuda, Robert (1990). Walden. Philomel Books.
  • Whitman, Walt; Sabuda, Robert (1991). I Hear America Singing. Philomel Books.
  • Whitman, Walt; Sabuda, Robert (1991). Earth Verses and Water Rhymes. Atheneum.
  • Sabuda, Robert (1992). Saint Valentine. Atheneum.
  • Lowe, Steve; Columbus, Christopher; Sabuda, Robert (1992). The Log of Christopher Columbus: The First Voyage: Spring, Summer and Fall 1492. Philomel Books.
  • Owen, Roy; Sabuda, Robert (1993). The Ibis and the Egret. Philomel Books.
  • Levy, Constance; Sabuda, Robert (1994). The Tree Place and Other Poems. Atheneum. Sabuda, Robert (1994). Tutankhamen’s Gift. Atheneum.
  • Sabuda, Robert (1995). Arthur and the Sword. Atheneum.
  • Davol, Marguerite W.; Sabuda, Robert (1997). The Paper Dragon. Atheneum.
  • Sabuda, Robert (1999). Blizzard’s Robe. Atheneum.
  • Sabuda, Robert (2003). Uh-oh, Leonardo! : The Adventures of Providence Traveler , 1503. Atheneum.
Pop-up Books
  1. Sabuda, Robert (1994). The Mummy’s Tomb: A Pop-Up Book. Golden Books.
  2. Sabuda, Robert (1994). The Knight’s Castle: A Pop-Up Book. Golden Books.
  3. Beach, Thomas (pseudonym) (1994). Creepy, Crawly Halloween Fright. Troll Associates.
  4. Sabuda, Robert (1995). Help the Animals of North America (A Pop-Up Book). Readers Digest.
  5. Sabuda, Robert (1995). Help the Animals of Asia (A Pop-Up Book). Readers Digest.
  6. Sabuda, Robert (1995). Help the Animals of Africa (A Pop-Up Book). Readers Digest.
  7. Williams, Nancy; Sabuda, Robert (1995). A Kwanzaa Celebration: A Pop-up Book. Little Simon.
  8. Sabuda, Robert (1996). The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Pop-Up Celebration. Little Simon.
  9. Sabuda, Robert (1997). Cookie Count: A Tasty Pop-Up. Little Simon.
  10. Sabuda, Robert (1998). ABC Disney Pop-Up. Disney Press.
  11. Sabuda, Robert (1999). The Movable Mother Goose. Little Simon.
  12. Sabuda, Robert (2000). The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: Pop-Up. Little Simon.
  13. Thomas, Pamela; Sabuda, Robert (2000). Brooklyn Pops Up. Little Simon.
  14. Moore, Clement Clarke; Sabuda, Robert (2002). The Night Before Christmas Pop-up. Little Simon.
  15. Sabuda, Robert (2003). Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: A Popup Adaptation. Little Simon.
  16. Sabuda, Robert (2004). America the Beautiful. Little Simon.
  17. Sabuda, Robert (2005). Winter’s Tale: An Original Pop-Up Journey. Little Simon
  18. Sabuda, Robert (2010). Beauty & the Beast: A Pop-up Book of the Classic Fairy Tale. Little Simon.
  19. Sabuda, Robert; Rosen, Michael J. (September 2011). Chanukah Lights. Candlewick Press.
  20. Sabuda, Robert (October 2013). The Little Mermaid. Little Simon.
  21. Sabuda, Robert (October 2014). The Dragon & the Knight. Simon & Schuster Children’s Books.
  22. Sabuda, Robert (December 2015). The White House: A Pop-Up of Our Nation’s Home. Orchard Books.
  23. Sabuda, Robert (2016). Sea Island Pops Up. Librum Artifex.
  24. Sabuda, Robert (September 2016). The Christmas Story. Candlewick Press.
  25. Sabuda, Robert (2018). Ten Horse Farm. Candlewick Press.
  26. Sabuda, Robert (2019). Believe. Candlewick Press.

Other pop-ups

  • Sabuda, Robert (2005). Christmas Alphabet Cards: Collectible Tin Set. Running Press Kids.

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