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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Aviary Wonders Inc.: Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual, by Kate Samworth. Clarion, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Thomas Allen & Son, 2014. $20.99 ages 9 and up

"Whether you are looking for a companion, want to make something beautiful, or just want to listen to birdsong, we'll supply everything you need to build your own bird. Choose from our catalog of  high-quality parts to create the bird that lives in your memory or imagination. Each bird is unique and yours to keep or set free."

Alfred Wallis, founder of Aviary Wonders, Inc. offers a short note about his company, prior to readers moving into the catalog of parts that will allow them an opportunity to create a bird of our own making, since so many have been lost to the world:

"Aviary Wonders closely copies the form and function of each bird part as it is found in nature and enhances it with patterns and color combinations of our own creation. Everything we manufacture, down to the smallest feather, meets our rigorous standards of beauty and durability. The results are stunning, if I do say so myself, and our birds are built to last."

If, by 2031, one of your favorite birds has become extinct, fear not! Mr. Wallis and his team of biologists, engineers and artisans can help. Peruse their catalog, make your choices and you will soon be the owner of an aviary wonder yourself.

The dangers are many for birds: insecticides, habitat loss, exotic pet traffic, cats! If we want to preserve these beautiful creatures for future generations, the message is clear. Change our ways, or we may truly be asking Aviary Wonders to build us a bird in the near future!

Ms. Samworth is quick to let the catalog shopper know the importance of the 'right parts'. She begins with bodies, showing body forms that include swimmers, perchers, birds of prey, and waders. They are beakless, legless, even wingless. Remember: we are building the bird we want to have! As she names them, captions are included for those birds that are already extinct, and dates for when they were last seen.

She moves on to beaks, tails, legs and feet, flight patterns, wings, collars, and crests. Once more, she provides clear captions for each, explaining that some species were hunted to extinction, offering design choice, and even suggesting certain sale items. After you have carefully perused your choices and made your picks, instructions are clearly laid out for assembling the parts you have chosen, and for adding embellishments. Teaching your bird to fly and sing complete the information process. Finally, there is a troubleshooting section that allows customers an opportunity to have their questions asked, and answered (photos included):

"Q. My bird flies very low to the ground. I've tried wings in every size. What else can I do?

A. It sounds as if your bird is afraid of heights. Try using some encouraging words."

This brilliant book is a warning, wrapped in satire. If we do not become more cognizant of our effect on the avian population, it may not be that far from the truth. It is a book meant to move us to action, to frighten us with its dire warnings, and to enchant us with the beauty of the art. The color catalog is amazing in its detail, and full of wonder. The brilliant colors chosen to showcase the various animal parts will have readers endlessly poring over the pages. It is sure to elicit opportunities for careful and thoughtful discussion. Splendid!

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