Beyond the Sixth Extinction, a cautionary tale in a pop-up book
Science tells us that Earth has had five mass species' extinction events in its history. Writer Elizabeth Kolbert, in her Pulitzer-prize winning book, "The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History," argues persuasively that we experiencing a sixth extinction right now, one caused by man, and not by volcano or asteroid. Shawn Sheehy, in his haunting "Beyond the Sixth Extinction: A Post-Apocalyptic Pop-Up," speculates on the dire circumstances of vast and irreversible climate change and suggests how some species may adapt, hybridize and succeed in the future. Our guest writer, Colette Fu, is an award-winning Philadelphia-based artist, whose pop-up books are owned by many museums and collections. Colette writes a cogent review of the cautiously optimistic book.

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by Colette Fu

Last October, Candlewick Press released yet another stunning pop-up book. BEYOND THE SIXTH EXTINCTION, A Post-Apocalyptic Pop-up, is a haunting, oversized pop-up book written and paper-engineered by Shawn Sheehy and illustrated by Jordi Solano. Full of convincing scientific diagrams and charts, the book illustrates a very real, but imagined futuristic world named the District of Cago, where new species have emerged and diversified due to catastrophic events.

“Beyond the Sixth Extinction,” by Shawn Sheehy, Illustrated by Jordi Solano
“Beyond the Sixth Extinction,” by Shawn Sheehy, Illustrated by Jordi Solano

The book’s title alludes to the five real, prehistoric mass extinctions that already have eliminated over five billion species. But unlike previous mass extinctions that resulted from volcanic eruptions or asteroid collision, etc, the species that flourish in the year 4847 have evolved by cause of neglectful human activity. Fortunately, these species can ingest and neutralize radioactivity, reduce greenhouse gasses, extract heavy metals, and break down plastics, much like the plastic eating bugs found last year in a Japanese dump.

Jordi Solano’s beautifully detailed illustrations complement Shawn Sheehy’s eight, oversized, three-dimensional pop-up spreads that mimic the colors and textures of hand-made paper. In our world dominated by the screen, Beyond the Sixth Extinction ‘s pop-ups, which reach 9” high, are tactile, kinetic elements. They are a refreshing, intimate, and educational way to interact with masterful art. This is Shawn’s second trade publication; Welcome to the Neighborwood won the Meggendorfer Prize for best pop-up book publication in 2016, awarded biennially by the Movable Book Society.

“Beyond the Sixth Extinction,” by Shawn Sheehy, Illustrated by Jordi Solano
“Beyond the Sixth Extinction,” by Shawn Sheehy, Illustrated by Jordi Solano

Publishing a pop-up book is a daunting task. While machines can print and die-cut individual parts, humans still have to assemble the final books. A price tag of less than $30 (price listed online when writing this article) is hard to imagine after learning just a little about the work that goes into designing and manufacturing a pop-up book.

There are many online resources available for learning more about pop-up books. Best Pop-up Books is a valuable resource full of videos, interviews and tutorials. To view a video of how a pop-up book is created and manufactured, check out the video of paper engineer Bruce Foster and illustrator Chuck Fischer, Angels: A Pop-Up Book.

I thank Shawn and his organisms for saving life on Earth and cautioning us how our choices impact it. Shawn elaborates in his book, “Though the content of this book is bleak, the tone is cautiously optimistic. Some ecological theorists believe that humans—being the most adaptable species in the history of the planet—will be the very last species to be exterminated, but there is still hope that a sustainable balance can be found between human resource use and the resource use of everything else.”

[Ed. note: If you’re interested in more Shawn Sheehy, he’s included in the new anthology, “A to Z: Marvels in Paper Engineering“from The Moveable Book Society.]

“Beyond the Sixth Extinction,” by Shawn Sheehy, Illustrated by Jordi Solano
“Beyond the Sixth Extinction,” by Shawn Sheehy, Illustrated by Jordi Solano

Beyond the Sixth Extinction, by Shawn Sheehy, Illustrated by Jordi Solano
Penguin Random House
October 2018
Hard cover, 40 pages
10 ¼” x 11 9/16”
Young Adult
Penguin Random House
Amazon


Colette Fu is a Philadelphia based photographer and pop-up book artist. She received her MFA in Fine Art Photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2003. Since, she has devised complex compositions that incorporate photography and pop-up paper engineering. This includes small-editioned pop-up books. Amongst Colette’s numerous awards are the 2018 Meggendorfer Prize for best paper engineered artist book and a Fulbright Research fellowship to China. She has designed for award-winning stop motion animation commercials and free-lanced for clients including Vogue China, Greenpeace, and the Delaware Disaster Research Center. Her pop-up books are included in the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Library of Congress, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the West Collection, and many private and rare archive collections. Colette Fu also won Philadelphia’s own Fleisher Wind Challenge in 2006! A passionate educator, Fu also teaches art making as a way to give voice to communities through pop-up paper engineered projects. She teaches pop-up courses and community workshops to people of all ages and marginalized populations at art centers, universities and institutions internationally.


More Photos

“Beyond the Sixth Extinction,” by Shawn Sheehy, Illustrated by Jordi Solano
“Beyond the Sixth Extinction,” by Shawn Sheehy, Illustrated by Jordi Solano
“Beyond the Sixth Extinction,” by Shawn Sheehy, Illustrated by Jordi Solano
“Beyond the Sixth Extinction,” by Shawn Sheehy, Illustrated by Jordi Solano
Tags

Beyond the sixth extinction, candlewick press, colette fu, fleisher wind challenge, Jordi Solano, Meggendorfer Prize, movable book society, Penguin Random House, photography, Pop up Bookstore, pop-up book, post apocalyptic, Rochester Institute of Technology, Shawn Sheehy, wind challenge

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