Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday Gift Guide: Birdscapes: A Pop-Up Celebration of Bird Songs in Stereo Sound by Miyoko Chu with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

There’s something deliciously crazy about Birdscapes (Chronicle Books). Cunningly engineered and beautifully designed and executed, to open the book is to initiate a wildlife symphony so convincing, the whole time I played with the book, my dog thought something illicit was happening on my desk. (And, from her perspective, what could be more illicit than colonies of birds taking root in the studio?)

The sounds would be impressive enough, but they’re not alone. Open, for instance, to the two-page spread showing a Pacific Seabird Colony. A rocky seascape rises right out of the book. A paragraph of text explains that “Common Murres court and fight on rocky outcrops, trumpeting to one another. Red-legged Kittiwakes exchange rapid nasal calls from the cliffs,” and so on, but you almost don’t need to be told: so strong are the visuals -- right there in 3-D! -- and so convincing are the sounds, not a snippet of imagination is required in order to partake.

A section at the back of the book explains all seven of the dioramas included in some detail. Birdscapes is breathtaking: flawlessly put together, no bird lover will fail to feel their jaw drop.

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