The chirpy introduction to this faux catalogue of the future zeroes in on the uneasy territory where possibility, probability and reality intersect. “Birds today face many dangers,” Kate Samworth writes. “Some species are disappearing. Others are already gone. Not to worry! Aviary Wonders Inc. has the solution.”
What follows is a gorgeous, page-by-page, bird-part-by-bird-part selection of possible purchases: 100 percent Indian silk feathers (“don’t fray with age”), fanciful beaks (“carved, engraved, and painted by hand in Turkey”), not to mention mechanical legs and feet (“engineered by Swiss clock-makers” and “covered in hand-tooled Italian leather”). Buyers are encouraged to assemble their own exotic pets using the nifty order form at the back. (“All parts are made to order. Allow 12-16 weeks for delivery.”) Touting the company motto (“Renewing the World’s Bird Supply Since 2031”), this neatly conceived package manages to be informative and eye-popping. Even casual browsers will note the differences in body types, beak shapes and flight patterns.
In terms of sheer amusement, “Aviary Wonders Inc.” practically begs to become an interactive look-what-I-made ebook, if it weren’t for the fact that the somber questions it raises would then be lost. More than 50 years after “Silent Spring,” adults will detect the death knell of biodiversity; children, gleefully drawn into the book’s creative possibilities, may need a gentle prompt to understand the full impact of a book whose exquisitely beautiful surface shimmers above an achingly sad subtext.