Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual

Image of Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual
Release Date: 
December 3, 2014
Clarion Books
Reviewed by: 

A tongue-in-cheek, speculative-fiction picture book that colorfully remedies a world without birds.

Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual: Renewing the World’s Bird Supply Since 2031, written and beautifully illustrated by Kate Samworth, is a sly choice for young readers.

Ostensibly a catalog from the future, it’s a creative look at a world where most birds are extinct. Despite the book’s adamant underlying message, it’s full of offbeat humor and employs a light touch.

Readers are invited to choose gorgeous, hand-crafted bird parts including wings, collars, tails, talons, wattles and combs, and to order them in an array of creative color palettes from “Old Master” to “Minimalist.” The enterprising entrepreneur assures us under “About the Company,” that he assembled a team of “the finest biologists, engineers and artisans” and “spent two decades on research and development.”

Instructions for assembling one’s flying Frankenstein-creature include such tips as, “Bird must be in a very relaxed state for steps 3, 4, and 5. Feed it a large meal and a glass of milk and allow it to fall asleep.” Also included is how to teach your bird to fly and sing. The latter especially “. . . takes time, effort, and persistence!”

A section called “Trouble Shooting” lists customer questions such as, “My bird walks in circles until it gets dizzy and falls over. What explains this strange habit?” Answer: “You may have attached the legs incorrectly.”

For kids this is a nonfiction book detailing bird anatomy and exotic species, including extinct ones, disguised as a slightly silly but fascinating catalog.

For adults, there’s no denying it’s a sobering indictment of our widespread destruction of species and habitats. How refreshing, though, that there’s no trace of righteousness and that it’s laugh-out-loud funny.

True to form, the catalog is careful to disclaim that these birds cannot reproduce and are meant as “alternatives, not replacements,” for real birds. Some things will never change.