In his latest stunner, Sabuda pairs a version of the tale that is less abridged than most retellings to paper-engineered effects that, as usual, raise the bar of the physically possible.
His trademark set-piece centerpieces start with the sea king’s coral castle—rearing up more than 14 inches in an intricately interwoven construct—and end with a high-ceilinged, multilayer wedding stage. Around these, the tale plays out largely on side flaps and inset booklets that themselves feature multiple layers and many small but no less brilliantly designed pop-ups. In scenes both above and below the ocean surface, rich colors blend and flow in tonal sweeps that echo the artist’s linework for elegance as well as the courageous mermaid’s intense inner emotions. Carrying the tale up to her hard-earned transformation to a spirit of the air, Sabuda has preserved the original’s events and much of its imagery in his rendition while dispensing with Andersen’s wordier flights of description and, thankfully, the heavily moralistic concluding passage. As with all of Sabuda’s pop-up creations, the spreads should be teased open rather than pulled to minimize the chance of tearing. The rewards are well worth taking such care.
A magnificent counter to the Disney pap. (Pop-up/fairy tale. 9-12)