“Pop-up Guide to Diagon Alley” review & giveaway

Nov 30, 2020

Posted by: Amanda Kirk


Wow. We at Leaky have been privileged to review and give away some fun books, and assorted merchandise, related to the Potterverse, but Harry Potter: A Pop-Up Guide to Diagon Alley and Beyond is next-level delightful. It’s equivalent to the difference between a Muggle magic trick and a real spell.

I am, for better or worse, technically a card-carrying adult, however poorly I adult at times. I haven’t had a pop-up book since around the age of five and I cannot stop playing with this. You’d think that the continual forward march of technology would have limited effect on an old-fashioned concept like a pop-up book. It’s still made from paper: no Augmented Reality, no app. But this ain’t your grandparents’ pop-up book. Yes, iconic scenes pop up when you turn the pages, and there are tabs you can pull to make doors open to reveal characters and action, all familiar from traditional pop-up books, but after you have explored each location and read the accompanying text, the whole book unfolds into a 4 foot long 3D model of Diagon Alley, the Leaky Cauldron, the Ministry of Magic, and Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. It’s a book impregnated with a transfiguration spell so it turns into a diorama. It is also the first book of its kind, a novel concept from paper engineer (yes, that is his real title) Matthew Reinhart.

Reinhart has created pop-up books for many franchises, including Star Wars, Frozen, Game of Thrones, Marvel’s Avengers, Lego, DC Super Heroes, My Little Pony, and even a pop-up guide to phobias, and seems to bring a playful and adventurous attitude to the medium.

There are clear instructions for setting it up, although where you find room to set up a 4 foot model of Diagon Alley is another question. I chose the living room rug, but Professor McGonagall in feline form is a little too curiously sniffing around it so I may have to allot it its own display shelf.

The diorama depicts scenes from all of the movies, side by side, so you can see Harry and Hagrid entering Diagon Alley for the first time through the brick wall, and also see Hermione purchasing Crookshanks at the Magical Managerie. Harry arrives by Floo Powder in Knockturn Alley by mistake, but Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes is doing a flourishing business, despite the fact that the latter didn’t yet exist when the former scene happened. But I find that I don’t mind the compressed timeline. It makes sense to include as much as possible rather than use a snapshot in time from one film. We get to see Harry’s wand choose him in Ollivander’s and we get to see the rescue of the poor abused Ukrainian Ironobelly dragon from Gringotts.

The Hogwarts Express retains its mysterious steamy, scarlet magnificence even rendered in paper, and the details are plentiful, such as seeing the students, and even the trolley witch, through the windows.

The Fountain of Magical Brethren is the centrepiece of the Ministry of Magic display, but we also get a glimpse into the Hall of Prophecy and the Veil Room, and a peek into Harry’s trial for using magic in front of a Muggle.

Harry Potter: A Pop-up Guide to Diagon Alley and Beyond is on sale now from Insight Editions. You can order your copy here for $75. It goes without saying that it’s the perfect holiday gift for every Harry Potter fan. It is expensive, let us just be honest and upfront that it is a considerable outlay for many of us for a gift, to ourselves or for friends or family, in a year when many have lost income due to the pandemic. But my justification is this: We will not be able to travel to see many of our loved ones in person this holiday season, so a special gift that can be enjoyed solo seems warranted this year. That is how I rationalise it anyway.

If you are the lucky winner of our giveaway, you will receive your own copy of this dare-I-say-magical book, to keep or give as a gift. To enter send an email to [email protected] telling us what shop you’d most like to visit in Diagon Alley, and why. Would it be Quality Quidditch Supplies to shop for broomsticks or a replica kit from your favourite team? The Magical Managerie to look for a pet? Flourish & Blotts to get lost perusing magical books for hours? Of course, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes is going to be an unmissable experience. Personally, I would be curious to see what wand would pick me in Ollivander’s and then have an ice cream at Florian Fortescue’s like Harry did.

Entries close Sunday, December 6, at midnight.

The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.