See a mummy unwrapped! (writing for pop-ups) Moira Butterfield

See a mummy unwrapped! (writing for pop-ups) Moira Butterfield

October saw the publication of a highly-illustrated book I wrote for kids roughly aged 7+. It’s called The Incredible Pop-up Mummy and it’s got 20 flaps to lift and three truly amazing multi-layered pop-up spreads. Writing for a pop-up project for any age-group is a very different experience to a normal book. It’s a team game – and with pop-ups of this complexity one might say it’s an ‘extreme team’ game! Here’s roughly how it goes. 

The front cover. It's very SHINY! 

Step 1. Writing? Wait for it….Wait for it….! You need to come up with some pop-up ideas and chat with the editor. The editor discusses it with the designer and the paper engineer – in this case the Templar in-house book wizards Kieran Hood and Richard Ferguson. No writing has been done yet – only thinking and researching. You need to know the general form of the book before you begin. 

In this case the book uses non-fiction but if you were writing a fiction story for a pop-up book then you’d still need to think about how to incorporate some belter pop-up opportunities and build them into the right places in your page plan. You can only have a certain number, depending on cost, and you'd need to work out where they're likely to go in the spread plan (if you’re coming up with a brand new as-yet unpitched idea, check in bookshops to see typical extents that publishers can afford). 


Step 2. OK. Go! You can start writing. You need to think about the spaces you’re going to get around the pop-up and you might need to think about flaps, too. I love a flap book for any age but flaps can be disappointing when what’s hidden beneath them is a bit ‘meh’ and not really an interesting reveal at all. They need to be worth the effort of opening them!

Now that's worth opening, right? 

Step 3. Finished? Nope. In a complicated pop-up book the writing is almost guaranteed to need changing as the paper engineering gradually comes together. In fact changes might happen right up to the last minute as the page space alters. You’ve got to cultivate patience and understanding and hold your nerve. It’ll be ok in the end….


Step 4. Finished? Nope. If your work is non-fiction an expert could get involved, making changes and suggestions. We were lucky to get Stephanie Boostra, who really has poked around Ancient Egyptian tombs and temples. She knows her stuff and was enthusiastic about the book. 


Step 5. Check it all (you may need to turn pages upside-down). Checking the layouts for a pop-up book is a bit barmy. All the bits are designed to fit on a printing sheet and they can be positioned any which way.Words can sometimes get mislaid so you need to make sure they’re all still there.

Er....Ok. Are all the words still there? 

Don’t be put off by this seemingly difficult process. If you ever get the opportunity to work on a pop-up remember that the secret of the job is giving the pop-up engineer great opportunities and knowing that there's a logical progression to the whole thing. It's just a bit different to an ordinary book, that's all.  


Anyway, this is being posted at Halloween time and, as promised in the title, you now get to see a mummy unwrapped! 

Happy Halloween!


The Incredible Pop-Up Mummy is illustrated by Quang and Lien, and published by Templar Books. 


Moira Butterfield’s currently available books include Welcome To Our World (Nosy Crow), the Look What I Found series (Nosy Crow/National Trust), the Secret Life series (Quarto), Dance Like a Flamingo and Sing Like a Whale (Welbeck), Maya’s Walk (OUP) and her latest Walker book – My Big Book of Questions About the World

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