February 9, 2016

“Beekle” meets Robert Sabuda’s Pop Ups!

Make fantastic pop-up books with your students using Dan Santat’s Beekle for inspiration.

Robert Sabuda is well known for his amazing pop-up books.  I wanted to use his pop-up techniques to show my students how paper may be manipulated.  But what should the book be about?

Everyone who loves picture books knows Beekle, from Dan Santat.  Beekle is about an imaginary friend who searches and waits for a child to imagine him. I was lucky enough to come across an informative podcast by The Picturebooking Podcast, dated February, 2015.  In it, Dan Santat gives a lengthy interview expressing his feelings about Beekle: where the ideas for the story came from, and most importantly… what Beekle is.    Beekle is this cute, pudgy white character, but after you read the book and listen to the podcast, you learn that Beekle is actually a piece of paper.  He is the imaginary friend that the little girl imagined for herself, because she loved to draw.

Start by reading Beekle to your students.

When I told my students I was going to “read them a story” they were very excited (they are not in elementary school).  My students watched and listened as I read it to them.  I asked them to look carefully at the illustrations (I scanned the book into my computer and then projected it onto a screen.)

Beekle endpaper

Example of Beekle endpapers

We took a good look at the endpapers of the book.  These were important as they gave examples of different kids with their own imaginary friends.  The friend was based on the activity they liked.  For example, if he liked to fly a kite, the imaginary friend was a cloud.  If she liked to swim, the friend was a huge fish, if he like to play music, the friend was a drum.

Here are some finished pop-up picture books from my students based on Beekle:

They started by writing out a list of their favorite activities, and chose one to ‘imagine’ and create.   They then made the friend out of construction paper based on that activity. They also had to make two or three details for the background, giving us a setting.


We then looked at Robert Sabuda’s Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs.  It has amazing (i.e. complicated) pop-ups.  I simplified the pop-ups by showing them basic steps- folding the base paper over and cutting lines into it, then popping out that piece to make it look like a step (blue image above).  It is on these steps that you can glue all of your details.  This technique can be done with many age groups and lends itself to a variety of subject matter.

The end results were adorable and the kids enjoyed working on them.

– Denise Cassano








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