Cyrus, Kurt 1954-
Cyrus, Kurt 1954-
Born August 17, 1954, in Redmond, OR; son of Warren H. and Joan Call Cyrus; partner of Linnea Lindberg. Education: Attended Oregon State University, 1974-76, and Art Center College of Design, 1978-80; Lane Community College, A.S. (respiratory therapy), 1985. Hobbies and other interests: Reforesting a twenty-acre tree farm.
Home—Cottage Grove, OR. E-mail—[email protected]
Children's book author and illustrator. Formerly worked as a fruit picker, forklift driver, and concrete mixer; Sacred Heart General Hospital, Eugene, OR, respiratory therapist, 1984-94; freelance author and illustrator, 1994—. SMART (Start Making A Reader Today) volunteer; Big Brother volunteer, 1998—.
Children's Choice Award, 1998, for Tangle Town; Christopher Award, 2000, for The Mousery; Pick of the Lists selection, American Booksellers Association, 2001, for Oddhopper Opera; PNBA Book Award, SSLI Honor, John Burroughs listee, Skipping Stones honor, and Beehive Award, all 2005, all for Hotel Deep; American Library Association Notable Book designation and Parents Choice honor, both 2006, both for Mammoths on the Move by Lisa Wheeler.
Tangle Town, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1997.
Slow Train to Oxmox, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 1998.
Oddhopper Opera: A Bug's Garden of Verses, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2001.
Hotel Deep: Light Verse from Dark Water, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2005.
Tadpole Rex, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2008.
Judith Mathews, There's Nothing to D-o-o-o!, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1999.
Charlotte Pomerantz, The Mousery, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2000.
Eve Bunting, The Bones of Fred McFee, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2002.
Lisa Wheeler, Sixteen Cows, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2002.
Lisa Wheeler, Avalanche Annie: A Not-So-Tall Tale, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 2003.
M.T. Anderson, Whales on Stilts, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2005.
Anne Bustard, Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.
Lisa Wheeler, Mammoths on the Move, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.
M.T. Anderson, The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen (sequel to Whales on Stilts), Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.
Julia Durango, Pest Fest, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2007.
Ann Whitford Paul, Word Builder, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2008.
After years spent working odd jobs and almost a decade working as a respiratory therapist while developing his book-illustration career, Kurt Cyrus was able to leave his day job and pursue his first love full time. With 1997's Tangle Town, Cyrus made his picture book debut, and his more recent self-illustrated books, which include Oddhopper Opera: A Bug's Garden of Verses and Tadpole Rex, have been supplemented by illustration work for authors such as Lisa Wheeler, M.T. Anderson, Eve Bunting, and Anne Bustard. Reviewing Cyrus's work for Wheeler's prairie tale Sixteen Cows, a Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the illustrator "uses the horizontal layouts to good effect in expansive watercolors of the golden prairie." Discussing The Bones of Fred McFee, a Kirkus Reviews critic concluded that Cyrus's mix of "smartly designed compositions and elongated perspectives creates an engrossingly eerie effect" in Bunting's Halloween-themed offering.
In Tangle Town Cyrus brings to life a place where everything is twisted up. When the mayor of Tangle Town cannot open his door because he is pushing when he should be pulling, he starts a chain reaction of misunderstandings similar to that caused during the children's game "Telephone." Ultimately, it takes a practical girl searching for a lost cow to straighten out the confusion in Tangle Town. Steven Engelfried, reviewing the book for School Library Journal, called Cyrus's illustrations "lively" and his story laden with "enough nonsense and wit to amuse most readers." Engelfried's opinion of Cyrus's debut picture book was borne out by Tangle Town's selection as a Children's Choice Award in 1998.
In Slow Train to Oxmox Cyrus relates the story of Edwin Blink, who accidentally boards the wrong train one morning on the way to work. Instead of the express, Edwin finds himself aboard a slow train to nowhere. He is accompanied by a host of strange characters that help create a mood that a Publishers Weekly critic described as surrealist, dubbing Slow Train to Oxmox an "atmospheric tour de force." As the ride progresses, Edwin and his fellow travelers work to overcome a series of strange obstacles, yet they never reach a destination. In the opinion of Robin Tzannes, who reviewed Slow Train to Oxmox for the New York Times Book Review, Cyrus's drawings are "very fine" and "full of wit and clever detail." Tzannes judged that the "drawings alone make this book worthwhile."
Cyrus combines his intriguing illustrations with short poems in both Oddhopper Opera and Hotel Deep: Light Verse from Dark Water. Oddhopper Opera introduces a myriad of bugs—dung beetles, flies, spiders, katydids, and many more—while the twenty-one poems and accompanying pictures in Hotel Deep follow the saga of a lonely little sardine who becomes separated from his school in a coral reef. In his search for the way back home, the tiny sea creature is helped by a number of other unusual denizens of the deep. In reviewing Oddhopper Opera, a Publishers Weekly contributor noted that Cyrus's "bold, inventive artwork lends high spirits" to the storybook's "down-and-dirty view of the garden," while a Kirkus Reviews critic cited the illustrator's imaginative "page design," "with poems and pictures ingeniously wrapped together." Praising the "energetic scenes of underwater life" Cyrus brings to life in the pages of Hotel Deep, School Library Journal contributor Margaret Bush deemed the picture book a "cheerful tour for browsers," and a Kirkus Reviews writer maintained that Cyrus's "exactly rendered" sea creatures—identified by an author-provided appendix—balance a "witty" rhyming text that makes the book "equally suitable for a quick dip or full immersion."
"It's very important to have a well-organized work space that contains everything I need, but nothing else," Cyrus admitted to SATA. "I'm too easily distracted."
[Image not available for copyright reasons]
[Image not available for copyright reasons]
Discussing his approach to crafting picture books in an interview with Logan Kaufman for the Adventures Underground Web site, the author/illustrator noted that his top priority is telling a compelling story. "I love doing a sequence of pictures tied to a narrative," Cyrus explained. "Magazine illustrations also tell stories, but they're usually designed to grab the reader's attention, have an immediate impact, and then be forgotten with the turn of a page. Books are less disposable. I like the idea that a kid might take the time to enter into this little world I'm creating, wander around in it, and return again some other day. That's how I used to read books."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, August, 1998, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Slow Train to Oxmox, p. 2013; June 1, 1999, John Peters, review of There's Nothing to D-o-o-o!, p. 1842; March 15, 2001, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Oddhopper Opera: A Bug's Garden of Verses, p. 1394; February 15, 2005, John Peters, review of Whales on Stilts!, p. 173.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2001, review of Oddhopper Opera; August 15, 2002, review of The Bones of Fred McFee, p. 1218; April 1, 2005, review of Hotel Deep: Light Verse from Dark Water, p. 415.
New York Times Book Review, November 15, 1998, Robin Tzannes, "Little Engines That Could," p. 46.
Publishers Weekly, July 20, 1998, review of Slow Train to Oxmox, p. 218; June 7, 1999, review of There's Nothing to D-o-o-o!, p. 81; July 31, 2000, review of The Mousery, p. 94; April 23, 2001, review of Oddhopper Opera, p. 77; March 25, 2002, review of Sixteen Cows, p. 63.
School Library Journal, March, 1997, Steven Engelfried, review of Tangle Town, pp. 149-150; May, 2001, Margaret Bush, review of Oddhopper Opera, p. 140; April, 2002, Helen Foster James, review of Sixteen Cows, p. 128; April, 2005, Margaret Bush, review of Hotel Deep, p. 120.
Adventures Underground Web site,http://www.advunderground.com/ (April, 2006), Logan Kaufman, interview with Cyrus.