THE AUDUBON SOCIETY BOOK OF WATER BIRDS by Les Line, Kimball L. Garrett and Kenn Kaufman (Abrams: $35; 252 pp.).
The Audubon Society series of exhibit format books about wildlife--now more than half-a-dozen strong--skirts the boundaries of coffeetable-book caricature. The books are more than a foot tall; they weigh several pounds at least. The signature type style is about twice normal size and weight, ragged-edged text occupying hardly more than half of each page. Despite their name, the books bear only a remote relationship to the Audubon Society.
There is nothing laughable about the plates, however. This current issue on water birds contains 211 superb color photographs representing the best efforts of scores of professionals, impeccably reproduced on heavy stock by the Japanese, who do the best printing these days. Cranes and kingfishers, rockhoppers and swans, pelicans and penguins: a selection from every continent and every aspect of natural history. Although I find the text format distracting in these books, it's first-class information gracefully written by expert ornithologists.