Monday, March 03, 2014

RoboBirds: Aviary Wonders, Inc. : Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth

To build a bird the proper way, you'll need more than


You'll also need


Imagine a spring in which there are no longer any wild birds. Human activities have resulted in environmental degradation, and birds no long flit and fly, sing and cry, among us.

Into that mid-twenty-first century scene comes Alfred Wallis, founder of Aviary Wonders (Renewing the World's Bird Supply Since 2031), who promises "the finest biologists, engineers. and artisans" to produce his aviary wonders, robo-birds which reproduce each extinct bird's "form and function," while offering the consumer the widest possible choice of patterns and colors for the pure silk feathers "guaranteed to last a lifetime." For imaginative bird fanciers, there are options for a variety of  decorated beaks, feet, crests, and tail feathers to craft their own "exquisite alternative."

Quaintly written in a polite parody of  early twentieth century mail-order catalogs, Kate Samworth's Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual (Houghton Mifflin Clarion, 2014) also provides detailed instructions for assembly of the bird--attaching wings, screwing in the legs properly, buckling on the beaks, and snapping on crests--humbly named after such luminaries as Isadora Duncan, Rachel Carson (recycled rubber only), and Ludwig von Beethoven--and hooking the cummerbunds that secure the tail feathers. Specials are noted: Buy two beaks and get a discount on the second! 

Each bird comes with introductory food and a Free First-Day Feeding Spoon,  and a supply of  Welcome Mix, to be fed to the resting bird during the first 24 hours of ownership.  There are also sections on Teaching Your Bird To Fly and Teaching Your Bird To Sing, and a troubleshooting  appendix with Frequently Asked Questions.

Each bird is unique and yours to keep or set free.  Imagine the thrill of populating the woods with colorful birds and listening to them sing your favorite songs!

Amid elaborately detailed and exquisite illustrations, author Kate Samworth wryly presses home the premise that a world without its natural birds is not one to long for, inserting notes with the dates and causes of extinction of real birds such as the passenger pigeon, meo, Javanese lapwing, and Carolina parakeet. Mechanical birds, even built by the best Swiss clock makers, sporting hand-painted feathers, warbling mp3 versions of songs a la Tammy Wynette, Luciano Pavarotti, or Justin Bieber, just aren't the same.

A book that inspires by the quality of its art and by the weight of its theme, Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manualis an ironically humorous spoof, a browsing book, one for admirers of the picture book art, bird fanciers, and one for almost any age group. Booklist's reviewer adds, "This is an original, somewhat disturbing, and wholeheartedly bizarre (but in a good way!) picture book for older children. . . An impressive picture book debut."   "Unsettling and unforgettable" says Publishers Weekly.

Watch for this one, sure to be in the running for the 2015 Caldecott Awards!

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  • How intriguing a review you have written for what appears to be a fantastic book. I am definitely adding this one to my TBR list. Thank you!

    By Blogger Ruth Cox, at 2:12 PM  

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