AVIARY WONDERS INC. ©2014 Kate Samworth. Reproduced with permission from HMH Books for Young Readers.

“Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual: Renewing the World’s Bird Supply since 2031,” by Kate Samworth, Clarion Books, $17.99, 32 pages, ages 9-12.

Hunting, habitat loss and climate change are driving bird species to extinction at a record clip. But what if carrier pigeons could once more take flight, simply by assembling various interchangeable parts?  Debut author-illustrator Kate Samworth explores this imaginative possibility in a book that is by turns funny and unsettling.  Samworth says the inspiration to sketch a bird catalog came after listening to New Orleans residents talk about the eerie lack of birdsounds post-Katrina.  

Modeled after an old-fashioned mail-order catalog, this fantasy avian sales prospectus is the brainchild of logging company magnate Alfred Wallis, who established Aviary Wonders Inc. after noticing that birds vanished shortly after loggers chopped down their homes. The catalog offers an assortment of feathers, bodies, beaks and legs for bird lovers to create a  feathered friend to call their very own.  The second half of the catalog is amusingly devoted to assembly, troubleshooting tips, and even includes an order form. 

The ‘catalog’ is peppered with cheeky advertising banter alongside some very real facts about endangered and extinct species. Samworth’s stunning oil paintings are as bright and cheerful as the underlying message of habitat destruction is serious. 

Aviary Wonders Inc. flies solo as one of the most unique books for bird-lovers of all ages, and despite its zany premise, will spur lively environmental and scientific discussions.

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