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Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 01/01/2014 Gr 4–8—This futuristic mail-order catalog offers hand-crafted parts for ambitious do-it-yourselfers who want to assemble a customized bird. Founded in 2031 after bird populations declined due to habitat loss, insecticides, and other factors, Aviary Wonders provides an "exquisite alternative" to the originals. Part of the book's wry humor derives from its use of advertising language. Customers are urged to purchase a second beak for 25 percent off so they can dress up their bird "for special occasions." Pages of bodies, legs, tails, and other parts feature advice on making appropriate choices to ensure components work together well. Optional embellishments, such as the resplendent Hearst collar or twining green Thoreau wattle and comb, make visual references to their namesakes. The detailed, richly colored paintings of the parts are followed by step-by-step instructions and sepia-toned illustrations that underscore the ridiculous undertaking of assembling birds by joining sections with straps and belts. Advice on how to teach the bird to fly and sing underscores the absurdity of the enterprise. Tucked on the descriptive pages are small notes about the decline and extinction of various species. Although the book's offbeat humor may puzzle many readers, the ecological subtext will resonate with some environmentally concerned children and adults who hope such a catalog will not become a necessary reality.—Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato - Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Bulletin for the Center... - 03/01/2014 In this satire on environmental collapse set in the near future, many of our avian friends have sadly been extinct for decades, but Alfred Wallis and his Aviary Wonders Company enthusiastically supply hobbyists with everything they need to create their own birds. Readers browse the current color catalogue to select parts to customize their own beautiful marvel, beginning with basic bodies and adding wings, beaks, feet, etc. appropriate to the lifestyle one chooses for their own beastie. Lots of samples are provided based on birds of the yore (and informative insets are included that remark on the passing of various species). Do you prefer a wader like an ibis or egret? Perhaps a swimmer such a swan or guillemot? Tails suitable for each bird come in a variety of aesthetically pleasing designs, and lots of helpful guidance is offered on how best to select the correct legs, wattles, combs, etc: proper attachment of each feature, and troubleshooting hints are also included. This is as cleverly executed as it is edifying, with a fair amount of information on physical adaptation, and the catalog conceit actually advances the organizational success. The gilding-the-lily exaggeration of birds’ natural beauty is satire at its child-appropriate best, and the subtle digs at our perennial efforts to domesticate animals for our pleasure won’t be lost on young readers. Pair this with Annette Cate’s Look Up! (BCCB 3/13), grab the binoculars, and let’s go bird watching while we still can. EB - Copyright 2014 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
Booklist - 03/01/2014 *Starred Review* Here’s how the book opens: “Some species are disappearing. Others are already gone. Not to worry! AVIARY WONDERS INC. has the solution.” In a handsome “catalog and instruction manual,” the company’s fictional founder offers bird replacements that are part pet, part artwork, and part automaton. Readers are invited to choose from various handcrafted bird bodies, legs, beaks, wings, and tails. After detailed assembly instructions, advice is given on teaching the creations to fly and to sing. A Q&A page and an order form follow. Deadpan rather than didactic in presentation, this is an original, somewhat disturbing, and wholeheartedly bizarre (but in a good way!) picture book for older children. An accomplished artist working here in oil, ink, graphite, and colored pencil, Samworth is equally adept at drawing the swoops and spirals of birds in flight or painting the richly colored and patterned bird parts in the opulent catalog. Though set in the future, the presentation has a distinctly vintage quality. The more the text delves into the intricacies of bird construction, behavior, and care, the more realistic it sounds, and the crazier it becomes. Reflective readers will soon reach the unstated but inescapable conclusion: birds are awesome creatures, and once gone, they’re simply irreplaceable. An impressive picture-book debut. - Copyright 2014 Booklist.