20,000 Leagues Under the Sea pop-up book -- the paper kraken wakes

I picked up 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: A Pop-Up Book yesterday after being poleaxed by it in a bookstore window. Paper engineer Sam Ita has created a magnificent, giggle-inducing, gorgeous adaptation of the classic Jules Verne tale, retelling the story with a series of gigantic, page-bursting pop-up effects that push the limits of paper technology. The story is retold using charming Tin Tin-esque comics-panels, and there's just enough verbiage there to glue together the vast and hypnotic paper-effects.

At 8 months, my daughter Poesy has just started to turn pages on books, and she was completely mesmerised by this one, slowly turning the page, then closing it, then opening it again, visibly delighted by the clever ways that the paper unfolded -- and unfolded -- and unfolded. Each scene has lots of little easter eggs and secondary scenes in it too, little grace notes that turn this from a merely great book to a world-class piece of paper-fetish. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: A Pop-Up Book


  1. Brilliant work. Robert Sabuto is also creates some amazing pop-up books. I have a small but growing library of pop-ups, and my kids love them — so much so that I have to carefully supervise lest they rip them to shreds playing with them.

  2. Wow, too early, not enough coffee. That first line should have read, “Robert Sabuto also creates…” The “is” was inadvertently left in after I abandoned a different thought.

  3. Yes! I love that one!

    My friend Alyson bought that for her son a few weeks ago and we all had fun playing with it before she pried it from our grasp to take to him.

    We have a great copy of Maurice Sendak’s “Mummy?” which is not only a fabulous pop-up extravaganza but also wholly appropriate for this Hallowe’en season.


  4. Don’t want to rain on Mr Ita’s parade, but my late wife (that’s the disclosure bit), Kate Petty, produced a series of pop-ups – THE GREAT GRAMMAR BOOK, THE WONDERFUL WORLD BOOK, THE MAGNIFICENT I CAN READ MUSIC BOOK and several others – that contain paper engineering that’s the equal of anything I’m seeing here, and also managed the difficult feat of getting across hard-to-teach concepts (grammar and punctuation, anyone?)in an easy and clear way. See the customer reviews on Amazon.com or .co.uk for corroboration. There won’t be any more, sadly, but it’s an amazing body of work.

  5. Sam Ita’s Moby-Dick adaptation is pretty amazing, too. I’d put it down as one of the best adaptations of Moby-Dick into comics form, even though he has to streamline the story sort of extremely to fit it into a pop-up book.

  6. I love that Amazon has the

    “Please tell the publisher:
    I’d like to read this book on Kindle “

    clickey on the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea pop-up book page.
    That next generation Kindle must be pretty cool

  7. at about 17 second into this clip – am I the only one who expected something to fold out of the elevator?

  8. This book is amazing and I love seeing behind the scenes! Pop-Up Engineering is really an amazing art. I think the song is The Big Haunt by Pegasus XL.

  9. Perhaps I just drank too much curmudge today, but it grates so much to hear the term “engineer” used so freely nowadays–it feels as cheesy and inappropriate as calling someone a “car doctor”.

    I understand that this maker’s process is similar to what an engineer might do–design a useful shape, fabricate it out of a material, serve a purpose–but the comparison stops when you realize that there won’t be any failing bridges if the kraken’s arm isn’t just so. I don’t see pop-up books needing an engineer’s creed of ethical standards, for example.

    How about–

    paperfold constructor?, or
    folding paper designer?, or why not just–
    pop-up book maker?

  10. If your daughter’s anything like my nieces, you will soon find everything in that pop-up book headless. Pop-ups are wasted on babies and toddlers despite their initial awe.

  11. That Kraken is pretty cool but…Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart are making pop-ups that blow that one out of the water. Reinhart’s “StarWars” which concludes with the masking of Darth Vader where you can see the helmet coming down over his nasty face and their collaborative “Encyclopedia Prehistorica” series with dinosaurs and sharks that attempt to devour you are both incredible demonstrations of this art/science. These guys use science and math to plan and build incredible structures. That qualifies as engineering to me.

  12. @14

    Well if you really want to get nitpicky then the use of engineer should only be used for people that are skilled in the design, construction and use of engines or someone that operates a locomotive. It is simply a modern colloquialism to use engineer to describe anyone that does something skillfully and artfully. Plus it sounds neat.

  13. This pop-up is in heavy rotation at our house:


    The link shows some of the pages to get an idea. There is a ton of detail including pictures of medieveal serfs going to the loo. (Unfortunately no pictures of them pitching the woo.)

    Perhaps I should comission a custom book?

  14. The title of this article confused me. Is it about 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or the Kraken Wakes?

    Clearly it’s about 20,000 leagues under the sea. Which I guess does include Krakens, but the Kraken Wakes is an entirely different book.

    That said, it’s a very good book. Everyone should read it. More relevant now than when it was written.

  15. never understood that title. Even then, they knew full well the sea wasn’t 60,000 miles deep anywhere.

  16. FYI: “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” is screening this saturday as part of the Jules Verne Adventure Film Festival. See http://www.jvaff.org for showtimes. Proceeds go towards providing science and environmental programs for underprivileged kids around the world.

  17. Thanks for this post. On the back of this post I bought a copy of the book for my (8-year-old) nephew’s birthday last week, and he adored it. He spent ages looking at the page with the squid’s eye peeping through the porthole. Wouldn’t let the book out of his sight all evening, and when it was time for home he gave me a big hug and said it was his “favourite book ever”!

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