Article Type Making Art Together Making Art Together Categories At Home Art Studio Bookmaking Collage Drawing

Books with Surprises

Sara Ottomano

This week, we invite our At Home Art Studio community to explore bookmaking and art with surprises. We often make books in the Art Studio as a way to encourage storytelling. Books can be filled with all sorts of drawings and illustrations, and there are countless ways of making them. Design elements like die-cuts and lift flaps add elements of surprise and make artwork interactive for others to enjoy. Below you’ll find how the team explored making their own stories and surprises, we look forward to seeing what you make! 

Book with cardboard cover that has a window cut out in the corner so you can see part of a fish on the first page of the bok.

When looking at the materials within her At Home Art Studio, Sara found a soap box that had a die-cut window on the front. She thought it would be interesting to hide a creature on the first page with part of its face sticking out. She decided to make a band book using blank paper, the cardboard soap box, and a rubber band to hold it all together.

A cardboard cover, rubber band, and stack of papers which, over the three images are turned into a book by stacking the papers inside the cardboard cover then putting a rubber band around the spine of the book.

Sara used the cover that she cut to trace an outline on a stack of printer paper. After cutting the pages and folding them, she noticed that they stuck out of the edges of the cover. To problem-solve this, Sara cut off some extra paper around the edges so they fit within the covers. She then stacked the paper on top of the cardboard cover, took the rubber band, stretched it over the side and placed it over the spine to bind the book. 

Two images, one with a rock lift-flap with seaweed on top, and the other where the rock is lifted up to reveal a crab underneath.

Sara decided to go into her textured paper supply she made last week for her At Home Art Studio to create a pop-up and lift flap story inspired by ocean creatures. Sara cut a rock-shaped piece out of her puzzle-piece-textured collage paper then glued down just a small portion of the top of it to form a flap. She folded up the part that wasn’t glued down, then glued the crab underneath the rock onto the book. She decided to draw arrows next to the rock to give a hint on how to use the flap. 

Three images, one of a seltzer box and a pair of scissors, another where the box has been turned into a book where a flower shape has been cut out of the cover, and the third image shows a drawing of wild columbine flowers behind the flower cut-out.

Meg found a seltzer package that she thought could turn into an excellent book cover. She noticed the pattern on the packaging would make an interesting cut-out, and give a preview to the book’s content. She carefully cut out the design by folding the box through the center of the shape, and cutting along the fold to get the shape started. One of flowers she looks forward to seeing in the spring is wild columbine, so she decided to draw the flower on the first page of the book and incorporate it into the cover design using the die-cut window. 

Two images, one with a drawing on an envelope of a monarch caterpillar on a leaf, and another picture where the flap on the envelope opens to reveal a monarch butterfly on a leaf.

Meg also wanted to try creating surprises using other materials around the house. So she made a transforming envelope with a caterpillar that becomes a monarch butterfly when you lift the flap. 

Three boxes showing a book made out of a tea box; one image shows the side of the box and how it opens to reveal pages inside, the second shows two of the inside pages of a steaming cup of tea and tea leaves revealed by a lift-flap, and the third picture shows two other pages with a different cup of tea and green tea leaves.

Audrey looked in her recycling bin to find materials. She got inspired by the top of a cardboard tea box. She cut the lid off of the box, made sure that the covers could still open, and then glued the pages in. Audrey used other parts of the box to make flaps revealing pictures behind them. She says “I thought about tea when I started drawing in my book! I liked making the theme match the materials!” 

Two images: One showing two pages of a collaged book with Museum of Fine Arts and Guggenheim images and text with a snowflake lift tab. The other image shows that when the snowflake lift-flap is lifted up, a snowflake with the Red Sox logo in the middle is revealed.

Mackenzie decided to make a collage book with hidden flaps. She gathered scraps that she thought would work together, using a mix of magazine and scrap paper. To begin, she cut and folded two pieces of colored paper for the cover, and then taped the pages together to bind her book. Inside, she made a hidden flap with a snowflake that reveals a Red Sox snowflake underneath! 

Two pictures: One showing the front of a book bound with a stick and rubber band with a bright yellow cover with bold traced shapes. The second image shows the back of the book, (which has the same patterned back cover) where more of the rubber band is seen.

Megan had a small dowel and rubber band in her art materials, and decided to make a stick and band book using the paper she made during her Shape Scavenger Hunt as the cover. 

Three images: One showing that the yellow stick-and-band book has envelopes as the inside pages. The second and third photos show how one of the envelopes has been turned into a door with a brown construction paper door, blue and purple windows, and a yellow door handle that has been glued to make it raised from the surface. One half of the door is on the envelope flap and one half is on the envelope body so when the door handle is pulled, the door opens.

Megan has lots of envelopes, and decided to use them to make the pages of her book. The way the envelope flap opened reminded her of an opening door, and inspired her to create one. Megan used construction paper and marker to make the envelope look like the outside door of a house. She gave it a paper handle to lift and open the door.  

Two pictures: One where the door book is opened and a creature with green patterned hands is sticking out. The second image shows a friendly smiling creature with a triangle purple nose, orange eyebrows, and a green body waves out from the card as a hand pulls the creature out of the door.

Megan drew underneath the envelope flap so it looks like the inside hallway of a home. She also created a character out of textured paper and construction paper, and slid it inside the envelope. When you open the door, the character can come out of the envelope. Megan is thinking about creating more scenes on the other envelope pages so her character can travel through the book.

Three images: The first shows a cardboard box cut so it makes a square cardboard cover of a book with an extended flap attached to the back cover that can be wrapped over the front cover. The second image shows the flap folded over the front cover which has been drawn on to look like a door. There is a mouse drawn on the front cover that is shining a light at the front door while a speech bubble coming from behind the door says "HOO's there?" The third image shows that when the flap is opened, a drawing of an owl is revealed.

Kate found a cardboard box in her recycling bin. The cardboard came from a cracker box, and she thought the end of the box might make a good door on her front cover. Kate also found some blank paper and yarn with her craft supplies. She cut two holes in the folded cardboard and used yarn to bind her book. She decided to illustrate her book using a ballpoint pen. Kate liked the idea of exploring her house and finding surprising things! On the front of the book, the character finds something behind a door that says “HOO’s there?” (HOO could it be?) 

Two images: One where a drawn mouse is shining a flashlight into a well, where the darkness of the well is attached to a pull tab that says "Pull to turn on your flashlight." The Second image shows what happens after you pull on the tab, the darkness within the well is pulled back to reveal a friendly mouse at the bottom of the well.

Inside the book, the characters open up windows and shine lights in dark places to find new friends there.  

Three images: The first is the front cover of a stapled book where the title is called "Spring has Sprung!" by Sophie. The second image shows a nature scene with a cloud, grass, and blue sky. The text says "The sun is out for longer..."  is written on the cloud and "...and the grass is getting greener!" is written in the sky. The third image shows that you can lift the cloud away to reveal a bright yellow sun.

Sophie wanted to use recycled paper for her book, as a way to reuse materials. She was inspired by signs of Spring.  

Two images: The first image shows a bright red bird chirping and flying above a yellow chick sitting inside an egg. The top part of the egg is a lift flap so it looks like it is hatching as it is opened up. There is text above the bird saying "Birds are chirping." and there is text on the egg saying "Eggs are hatching!" The second image has two flowers, one yellow and one pink where the pink flower can be lifted up to reveal a blue and black butterfly. There is text above the flowers that says "Flowers are blooming." and the text below the flowers says "Spring has sprung!"

She created a flap book by cutting out pieces of colored paper and pasting them onto the page. She shows the sun, green grass, birds chirping, eggs hatching, and butterflies visiting flowers. Sophie used bright colors to make her book cheerful.


We look forward to seeing your books and the surprises you create within them! Tag us @carlemuseum and use #AtHomeArtStudio so we can see and share what you are making.



Sara smiling in front of Art Studio display.

Sara Ottomano

Art Educator from 2016-2023 at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Sara (she/her) is enthusiastic about helping others approach art through exploration and experimentation.