Digging around in a giant Rubbermaid bin labeled “Ninja Turtle Stuff,” I came across a few historical gems that I’m going to be showcasing in a series of articles I’m also labeling “Ninja Turtle Stuff.” The first in the series is a look back to the simple pleasures of pop-up books.

Pop-up books are like children’s books on acid. They take the humble appeal of a regularly-illustrated, vanilla storybook and steer it directly into the realm of the strange. Instead of flat, lifeless pictures strewn across the page, there are three dimensional objects bent in a way that makes them magically stand up as you turn the pages. The real reason these books are so fun for kids are the interactive portions, though. Instead of just having your favorite bedtime story read to you over and over again by your parents, now you can actually PLAY with it.

I remember being totally obsessed with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Pop-Up Storybook when I was a kid. It actually held a special place in the pants drawer of my bureau, always within reach when I wanted to gaze upon its colorful goodness.

This is one of those books you just have to see to appreciate.

The cover depicts the four instantly-recognizable turtle dudes smiling and brandishing their weapons. For some reason, the artist decided to draw Mikey and Raph much fatter than Donnie and Leo. Looks like those two need to lay off the triple decker bacon whipped cream pizzas.

The first pop up page shows the four brothers engaging in a group high five while the text explains a bit about each turtle’s respective skill set. The loaded question at the end draws the reader in with its limitless possibilities.

The next page includes an interactive element where you can rotate a radial picture of the baby turtles as the ooze transforms them into their teenage mutant ninja selves. This section gets bonus points for showing the boys without their bandanas. It’s a rare sight and I applaud Random House for having the guts to unmask the foursome.

The other half of this scene introduces the reader to the mutant rat known as Master Splinter. The text explains how he is the one who taught the turtle teens everything they know about the art of ninjitsu. Splinter looks so solemn as he meditates in the background despite the delicious-looking pizza feast unfolding in front of his eyes.

Finally, we get to the villains. The two idiotic “muta-punks” Bebop and Rocksteady are getting chewed out by the evil Shredder for mucking up another one of his nefarious plots. A pull tab allows you to make the Shredder move his arms as he shakes the crap out of his mutant animal cronies.

This page gives us our first glimpse at Krang as we admire his beautifully creepy android body. Shredder points emphatically at Splinter’s mug on his computer monitor. He is furious that the rat and his turtle boys are the only obstacles standing in the way of his and Krang’s plot to take over the world.

This gloriously-detailed two page spread is probably my favorite part of the whole book. We’ve got the turtles in the foreground contemplating a plan of attack as they gaze upon the one-eyed monstrosity of a futuristic spherical war tank known as the Technodrome. It’s better than fucking Picasso.

Flipping the page, we’re privileged with a look at the ninja turtles kicking some serious ass. The “BAM-CRASH-POW!!” sounds help a kid fully visualize the carnage of a four way reptilian brawl fest. Shredder takes on Master Splinter in the left panel while Raph and the gang put a serious smackdown on pig face and rhino boy. Unfortunately, the foot soldier pop up in the foreground is damaged from years of use, but you still get the idea.

The best part about this spread is the little finger dial that you can rotate to reveal Rocksteady flipping upside down as he’s pummeled into submission.

On the reverse side, the finger dial can be used to show the different camera angles of the fight as April looks at her monitor in the news van. The smile on her face is a stark contrast to the look of absolute fear and horror on Bebop’s face. April must really get off on mutant violence. One of the shots is also a nice view of Raph smiling after inflicting serious bodily harm on Shredder’s cronies.

After the mayhem, the turtles return to their sewer hideout as April waves goodbye to her favorite teenage turtle friends and we’re afforded one last opportunity to interact with the book.

Lifting the manhole cover off of the sewer access pipe reveals Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo hamming it up for the camera.

THE END

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