For the past two decades, The Movable Book Society has honored the very best in paper engineering through its Meggendorfer Awards program. The award honors Lothar Meggendorfer (1847-1925), a legendary 19th-century illustrator and movable books paper engineer. Meggendorfer created over 100 pop-up books, employing pull-tabs and rivets that caused several actions at once on a page.
Every two years, one paper engineer wins the Meggendorfer Prize “for the most outstanding commercially published pop-up or movable book”. This is the highest award for paper engineering, and these books are always beautiful, creative and very collectible. The criteria for the award include originality, artistry, overall text and functionality, and how well the movable mechanics work. Innovation and integration of the pop-ups into the story are also considered, along with its overall appear. Best of all, because the award is for commercial titles, you can usually find them easily and afford to add them to your collection (at least, while they are still in print…). As well as the list of winning books, there are links below to the finalists for each year, all of which are also amazing (I don’t envy the judges having to choose between them).
The Movable Book Society also awards prizes for Artist Books and emerging student designers, but these awards are generally for one-off designs that are not typically accessible to the public.
2021 Prize – Opening the Forbidden City
Designed by Chinese paper designer Wang Wei, this pop-up guide to China’s Forbidden City contains 7 pages which show all the buildings on the central axis of the Forbidden City, and extends to over 3 metres long when fully unfolded. It was crowdfunded via Chinese Kickstarter platform Modian, with an initial print run of 15,000 copies.
Paper engineer: Wang Wei
Publisher: Publishing House of Electronics Industry
Publication date: May 2020
Video review coming soon
In the meantime, here’s a (sorry, slightly annoying) moving gif to give you an idea…
2021 Prize Finalists
☞ Take a peek inside the other 2021 Prize finalists, which include a pop-up book based on a card game, two large 3D dioramas for some pop culture phenomena, a couple of nature titles, a Christmas retelling, and a very unusual collaboration.
2018 Prize – Zahhak: Legend of the Serpent King
This stunning pop-up tells the Iranian folk tale of Prince Zahhak, duped by the devil to steal his father’s throne, and brave Feraydun who eventually defeats him. Illustrations are from the epic Shahnameh, which I also highly recommend. The delicate paper engineering complete with feather details has to be seen to be believed. Absolutely gorgeous.
Paper engineer: Simon Arizpe, art and design by Hamid Rahmanian, text by Melissa Hibbard & Ahmad Sadri
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Publication date: October 2018
➤ French edition at Les Rêveurs
Zahhak Video Review
2018 Prize Finalists
☞ Take a peek inside the other 2018 Prize finalists, which include books with working pop-up tools, sculptural artworks from the sea and manga characters, seasonal and humorous children’s adventures, and a pop-up interpretation of a classic gothic tale.
2016 Prize – Welcome to the Neighborwood
A delightful nature exploration of seven animal builders, displaying the beauty and wonder of their homes, from delicate spiderwebs to complex honeycombs.
Paper engineer: Shawn Sheehy
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication date: March 2015
2016 Prize Finalists
2014 Prize – Transformers: The Ultimate Pop-Up Universe
Transformers shift, change, and rise to battle, including pull-tabs that let you watch the pop-ups cleverly change into entirely new paper creations. The enormous Autobot Omega Supreme seems almost too tall to fit back into the book as he rises to smash the Decepticons. Features more than 35 iconic Transformers characters, including Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Megatron, Starscream, and more.
Paper engineer: Matthew Reinhart, illustrated by Emiliano Santalucia
Publisher: Little Brown Kids
Publication date: October 2013
ISBN 2013: 9780316186629
ISBN 2023: 9781647229542
2012 Prize – Paper Blossoms: A Book of Beautiful Bouquets for the Table
Five amazing pop-up bouquets are designed to bring floral cheer to any room, including a garland of roses, a tropical arrangement, a lotus watergarden, a springtime bouquet, and a vase of lilies.
Paper engineer: Ray Marshall
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication date: September 2010
2010 Prize – ABC3D
Each of the 26 three-dimensional letters in this small-format abecedarian is rendered in simple black, red and white tones, and they move and change before your eyes – revealing themselves in pop-ups and sliding panels. Also features a lenticular cover that changes with the angle of your hands.
Paper engineer: Marion Bataille
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication date: October 2008
2008 Prize – Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy
A thirtieth anniversary Star Wars commemorative edition that in addition to stunning pop-ups, also contains actual working light sabers, along with pull tabs, mini-pop books, and other interactive looks at the exciting and popular movie franchise.
Paper engineer: Matthew Reinhart, text and art based on the Star Wars films by George Lucas.
Publisher: Orchard Books
Publication date: October 2007
2006 Prize – One Red Dot: A Pop-Up for Children of All Ages
Readers are invited to find a single red dot in pages which become increasingly more complex as they introduce a cacophony of form, color, movement and sound.
Paper engineer: David A. Carter
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: October 2005
2004 Prize – Knick-Knack Paddywhack!
An ingenious moving parts narrative follows a boy’s adventures as he ventures outside to the lyrics of “This Old Man”.
Paper engineer: Andy Baron, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Publisher: Dutton Children’s Books (US) / Random House (UK)
Publication date: Sep 2002 (US) / Sep 2004 (UK)
ISBN 2002: 9780525469087
ISBN 2004: 9780141380131
2002 Prize – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: A Commemorative Pop-Up
A magnificent retelling of Baum’s classic children’s tale, with magical pop-ups for all the key scenes, including a spinning cyclone, a floating hot air balloon, and even green tinted glasses for viewing the Emerald City.
Paper engineer: Robert Sabuda with additional design work by Matthew Reinhart, based on the original novel by L. Frank Baum.
Publisher: Little Simon (US) / Simon & Schuster Children’s (UK)
Publication date: November 2000 (US) / January 2001 (UK)
➤ Two limited editions were released for this title, both with a slipcase and bonus pop-up on the cover, the earlier LE of 50 copies has a woodcut print to the slipcase, the later LE of 200 copies does not. Find it at Amazon | Abes | eBay
ISBN US: 9780689834981
ISBN UK: 9780689817519
ISBN LE: 9780689840142
1998 Prize – The Christmas Alphabet
A delightful abecedarian with a Christmas flavour to its 26 pop-up paper sculptures, such as A for a holy angel rising from the page, B for a bell swinging merrily in its belfry, and C for a candle with a flickering flame.
Paper engineer: Robert Sabuda
Publisher: Orchard Books
Publication date: 1994
There are multiple editions of this title around, including the original OOP edition and its reprints (red cover); a Deluxe Limited Edition in 1995 (signed, bound in red cloth, with 2 bonus pop-ups, 500 copies); a special issue in decorative boards for Gump’s of San Francisco in 1996; a Deluxe Anniversary Edition released in 2004 (green cover) and a 20th Anniversary Edition released in 2014 (gold cover).
ISBN 1994: 9780531068571 (Scholastic)
ISBN 1995: 9780531094921 (Scholastic, Deluxe)
ISBN 1996: 9781898000631 (Barefoot UK)
ISBN 1997: 9780531068809 (Orchard US)
ISBN 2001: 9780531068571 (Hachette UK)
ISBN 2004 10th Ann: 9780439672566
ISBN 2014 20th Ann: 9781623481544