Matthew Christian Reinhart was born September 21, 1971, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His father, Gary, joined the navy to become jet fighter pilot and later as a doctor, so the Reinharts moved from Florida to Texas to Illinois to California to Virginia and then South Carolina. Matthew and his mother, Judith, followed along, and were soon joined by his mischievous little sister, Erin. His childhood was filled with very happy memories of family and friends. Art was always a big part of his childhood, and he drew whenever he got the chance. His school notebooks often had more drawings than notes! Star Wars fueled his young imagination, inspiring sketchbooks filled with monsters, spaceships, and action heroes.
After high school, Matthew was unaware he could survive as an artist, so his father convinced him to study medicine. When college ended, he took a year off in New York and met Robert Sabuda while doing volunteer work together. Robert, whose first pop-up book, The Christmas Alphabet, had just been released, persuaded him to attend Pratt Institute in New York City to follow the dream of being an artist. With his parents’ blessing, Matthew studied industrial design, with an emphasis on toy design, but his path changed from toys to pop-ups after working with Robert on books like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, A B C Disney, and Movable Mother Goose.
Matthew made his first big break into the pop-up world with The Pop-up Book of Phobias. Other books followed, including collaborations with Sabuda like their world-wide best-selling Encyclopedia Prehistorica trilogy and The Encyclopedia Mythologica follow-up, and renowned illustrator Maurice Sendak on the New York Times best-selling Mommy?
Matthew’s solo pop-up books include The Ark, Animal Popposites, The Jungle Book, Cinderella, A Pop-Up Book of Nursery Rhymes, and Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy. He continues to work and live in New York City, cutting, taping, and folding paper into pop-up masterpieces.
All of my pop-ups start with the story—whether it’s a reinterpretation of a classic or newly written nonfiction. Of course, from the get-go, I have ideas in my head about what would be cool to make in three dimensions for each page. Writing was hard for me at first, since I am primarily a designer and illustrator. After the words are written, I usually make a written outline of large main pops, for the number of page spreads, typically around six. Robert Sabuda, my partner in pop-ups, and I love to cram as much as we can on each spread, so we use little booklets on the pages with extra pop-up surprises inside. I don’t usually think of a specific mechanism to use for each idea, but I think of an object or character that needs to either become 3-D or move in a specific way. It’s important for me to vary the perspective of these pops, so the reader doesn’t keep seeing the same thing—because I would get bored with it!
After figuring out a rough list of pops, I begin to design the mechanisms by just cutting out paper, folding it, and taping it together. The initial design is completely by hand, and I make lots of mistakes! The work studio is a complete disaster while I am working, with white paper pieces everywhere. This initial design stage may take up to three months, and as I refine each mechanism, I begin to draw pencil die lines. Once I am able to rebuild a new copy of the pop-up from these, one of our designers or I can make very accurate die lines on the computer, so we can give the information to the manufacturer for making thousands more. The most important early step, before any drawing or artwork is done, is the paper engineering. Then, after all the pops work correctly, I can sketch lines and make final artwork for the hundreds of pieces per book. Some of our books have taken a year to create, but I’ve gotten faster over the years and narrowed it down to about seven months.
I consider myself a very lucky artist to be able to weave such fantastic tales with intricate, moving paper sculptures—but even luckier to share them with the world. Even though I’m an adult, I feel like a kid working at my desk, building worlds, creatures, and characters that come to life from scraps of paper, tape, and string.
Books provide the time to think and reflect, transforming just a few pages of an author’s words and an illustrator’s pictures into a fantastic adventure. Not every kid connects with a book the same way—and its important to encourage any kind of book reading, whether board book, picture book, ready readers, chapter book, young adult novel, manga, graphic novel, even pop-ups. Books can come alive, and I hope that the work I create can be a part of that magic.
Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:
1. I am a big toy collector—especially Star Wars figures and Transformers! I’ve been collecting for more than thirty years and have thousands of figures in my collection! Most of them are in storage, because my house isn’t big enough to display them all.
2. I don’t like tomatoes, but I do like ketchup and spaghetti sauce.
3. I can whistle very well and very loud. When I was in high school, my artful whistling got me a part in a play at Dock Street Theatre in Charleston, South Carolina.