Books by Kurt Cyrus

FIX THAT CLOCK by Kurt Cyrus
CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 26, 2019

"With lots to look at and a pleasing rhythm, this energetic repair project ticks along very nicely indeed. (Picture book. 4-8)"
Three young builders repair a run-down clock housed in a wooden tower. Read full book review >
INVISIBLE LIZARD IN LOVE by Kurt Cyrus
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 15, 2019

"Love conquers all, including a pair of initially snippy chameleons. (Picture book. 4-8)"
A couple of chameleons literally fall in love. Read full book review >
BE A GOOD DRAGON by Kurt Cyrus
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 15, 2018

"Great splatters of draconic mucus aren't enough to make this story soar. (Picture book. 3-7)"
Enzo the dragon has a most disastrous cold. Read full book review >
INVISIBLE LIZARD by Kurt Cyrus
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 15, 2017

"An attractive complement to Eric Carle's The Mixed-Up Chameleon. (Picture book. 4-6)"
Napoleon, a colorful, "spiffy" chameleon, lives on an equally "spiffy" tree limb and blends in so well with his surroundings the other jungle residents cannot see him. Read full book review >
SHAKE A LEG, EGG! by Kurt Cyrus
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 14, 2017

"For dawdlers everywhere. (Picture book. 2-6)"
A laggard gosling is encouraged to leave its shell and join its family. Read full book review >
BILLIONS OF BRICKS by Kurt Cyrus
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 11, 2016

"After sharing this, readers will have a new appreciation for bricks and will want to count all the ways they're used in their own communities. (Counting/picture book. 4-7)"
This describes itself as "a counting book about building," but it is so much more. Read full book review >
WHAT IN THE WORLD? by Nancy Raines Day
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2015

"Textured, visually rich, and gracefully simple, this is a fine blend of informative poetry and illustration. (Picture book. 2-6) "
This more-than-a-counting-book introduces things recognizable in numbered sets. Read full book review >
HE LAUGHED WITH HIS OTHER MOUTHS by M.T. Anderson
YOUNG ADULT
Released: Aug. 5, 2014

"Layered, beautiful, smart and achingly funny. In a word, brilliant. (Science fiction. 12-16)"
The thrills continue as Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut, goes into the deepest regions of space in search of his long-lost father. Read full book review >
MOTOR DOG by Kurt Cyrus
by Kurt Cyrus, illustrated by David Gordon
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 25, 2014

"An amusing fable for the techno-savvy and Luddites alike. (Picture book. 4-10)"
A boy named Flip orders a robotic dog from the Internet in this cleverly rhymed story that manages to be both original in concept and conventional in portraying the bond between boy and dog. Read full book review >
YOUR SKELETON IS SHOWING by Kurt Cyrus
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 23, 2013

"The author's sly humor coupled with the illustrator's whimsically dark details will surely have primary-grade readers cackling. (Picture book/poetry. 5-8)"
Cyrus pens a collection sure to make the most poetry-averse at least smile if not laugh out loud. Read full book review >
20 BIG TRUCKS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET by Mark Lee
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 11, 2013

"Truck-lovers will beg for repeat reads, with little ones 'reading along' from memory. (Picture book. 3-5)"
When an ice cream truck breaks down, a truck traffic jam ensues: the perfect attraction for the vehicle-obsessed in this captivating counting book. Read full book review >
ZOMBIE MOMMY by M.T. Anderson
ADVENTURE
Released: Oct. 25, 2011

"Ridiculous in all the best ways. (Fantasy. 9-12)"
The latest in Anderson's madcap pastiche series takes on the undead of upstate New York. Read full book review >
THE VOYAGE OF TURTLE REX by Kurt Cyrus
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 4, 2011

In a life-cycle arc paralleling the one in Cyrus' Tadpole Rex (2008), a tiny prehistoric ancestor to modern sea turtles hatches from a buried egg, scuttles across a beach into the sea, survives multiple hazards to grow into a mighty two-ton Archelon and then in season returns to shore to lay a clutch of her own. Injecting plenty of drama into his beach and sunlit undersea scenes with sudden close-ups and changes of scale, the illustrator vividly captures the hatchling's vulnerability as she passes with her sibs beneath a towering T. Rex only to discover a world of toothy predators beneath the ocean's rolling surface. And even full grown, though she can glide unheeding past sharks and even plesiosaurs, an encounter with a mosasaur "massive and dark: / muncher of archelon, / gulper of shark" sends her sliding hastily down to concealment in the billowing bottom sands. Like its subject, the rhymed text moves with grand deliberation, carrying the primeval story line to a clever transition between that ancient era and ours: "Gone is that sea and the creatures it knew. / Archelon. Mosasaur. Pterosaur, too. / Gone is the plesiosaur's clam-cracking smile… / but full-body helmets are still in style" as "shells of all fashions continue to girdle / the middle of many a tortoise and turtle." Never has time travel been so easy or so immersive. (author's note) (Informational picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
AGENT Q, OR THE SMELL OF DANGER! by M.T. Anderson
ADVENTURE
Released: Oct. 19, 2010

Readers need to be sure, when entering M.T. Anderson & Kurt Cyrus-land, they've securely fastened their disbelief to some high and sturdy hook, because as soon as they crack the binding, they will be assaulted by more looniness than any regular person could imagine. As the story opens, the series's eponymous Pals—Katie Mulligan (star of the Horror Hollow books), Jasper Dash (Boy Technonaut, star of his own boys' adventure series) and Lily Gefelty (ordinary)—are making their way to the "forbidden border of Delaware" (which suffers from a terrible vowel shortage). To get there, they will need to evade the spies of the Ministry of Silence (who have astonishing camouflage skills), negotiate coded menus ("If you keep on asking for hamburgers, fries, and Reubens, he will believe we are being pursued by lady musketeers. On zebra-back") and survive being guest stars on the This Is Your Double Life!!! reality game show, all with the help of some doughty monks and the obnoxious Taylor Quizmo, Secret Agent, and without harming the sentient lobsters. Hysterical—for readers willing to surrender to a walloping smart ride. (Satire. 10-14)Read full book review >
HIBERNATION STATION by Michelle Meadows
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 24, 2010

The autumn leaves are swirling all around, so it must be time to gather at Hibernation Station to board the train to sleep. An adorable crew of pajama-clad forest animals make their way to the train, a collection of log cars with variously sized holes and crevices. Large and small, reptile and mammal, true hibernators and "light sleepers" all pile onto the train. But it's not long before there are problems. Bear's roommate keeps him awake, groundhog's hole is too small and so on. The uniformed railroad bears look over the hibernation maps and sort everyone out so that soon the only sound is of snoozing. An author's note gives more information about hibernation, including the distinction between true hibernators and light sleepers. Cyrus's pencil-and-digital color illustrations are filled with rich colors and details, albeit anthropomorphized ones. The fundamental problem is that a jam-packed train is a poor model to illustrate this phenomenon. Denise Fleming' s Time to Sleep (1997) still sets the standard. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
BIG RIG BUGS by Kurt Cyrus
ANIMALS
Released: May 1, 2010

Cyrus offers a creative, appealing comparison between bugs and construction trucks. When a litterbug at a construction site tosses his lunch remains out the window, the bugs spring into action: "Cleanup crew— / work to do! / Big rigs roll / from every hole." Each bug then does its own job, metaphors connecting them to one of the tiny construction trucks seen off in the distance. "Clear that thicket, / dozer cricket," reads the text as a bulldozer rolls over the hill in the background. The illustrations give readers a close-up view of the action, the bugs filling the spreads, some so large that their entire bodies do not fit within the confines of the pages. While this lends well to larger group sharing, it takes away somewhat from the detail—in some cases it is difficult to tell exactly what the bugs are doing with the sandwich remains, and this weakens the impact. The bare-bones, rhyming text makes this accessible to even very young children, while the combination of construction trucks and bugs is sure to guarantee its popularity. (Picture book. 2-6)Read full book review >
JASPER DASH AND THE FLAME-PITS OF DELAWARE by M.T. Anderson
ADVENTURE
Released: Sept. 8, 2009

Metafiction at its most weirdly satisfying. Anderson began his Thrilling Tales in 2005 with a slight not-quite-200-pager called Whales on Stilts, then followed it the next year with the rather longer Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen. Each was populated by the trio of Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut, star of his own adventure-book series (that no one reads any more), Katie Mulligan, star of the Horror Hollow stories, and Lily Gefelty, "who observed things constantly and thought complicated things about what she saw." This far longer tome finds Jasper returning to save the mountaintop monastery where he learned martial arts in deepest Delaware. There is no way to summarize a plot that includes shards of and snarks at Eragon, Tom Swift, chick lit and sports novels, Galaxy Quest and Indiana Jones movies and so on. Extremely funny, it's for adults, who will get at least half the references, and for children, who will get the other half. Cyrus's illustrations are integral and pretty darn amusing, too. (Fiction. 9-14)Read full book review >
WORD BUILDER by Ann Whitford Paul
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 24, 2009

While the idea behind this visually dazzling effort has great potential, the execution may leave some feeling disappointed. In the world Paul and Cyrus have created, an androgynous construction worker hammers enormous letters into words, then piles the words into sentence towers that are held together with punctuation mortar. Framing organizes sentences into paragraphs, while stacked paragraphs create chapter cities. "Keep on building…until you have created…a whole world of book." The pencil-and-digital artwork varies in perspective from extreme wide-angle to super-close-up views, maximizing the impact of the illustrations and the construction theme. However, for the purposes of teaching children about writing, a preponderance of wide-angle views might have been in order. While the text describes sentence towers and their punctuation mortar, readers never get to see a completed one. And beyond the sentence level, the buildings simply look like tall houses with a letter at the roofline. The final illustration is masterful—the view over the construction worker's shoulder at the completed book, peopled with characters and full of action. For abstract thinkers, this could be a powerful tool. (Picture book. 7-10)Read full book review >
TADPOLE REX by Kurt Cyrus
Kirkus Star
by Kurt Cyrus, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus
ANIMALS
Released: June 1, 2008

A tiny frog unleashes his inner tyrannosaur when his diet changes from plants to prey. In prehistoric times, a timid polliwog lies in the mud at the bottom of his puddle, hiding from predators. The rhyming text, fruity with primeval "bloops" and "floops," follows his growth as he becomes a frog. And then he hides no more. In touch with his inner predator, he ribbets for all to hear, attracting the attention of the large dinosaurs: "Bouncing about with the boldest of hops, / Rex nearly tripped a triceratops." Having taken his stand, he then quietly returns to skulk in his puddle, only his eyes visible above the surface. The swampy greens and hard edges of the digitally colored scratchboard artwork suit the prehistoric period and rough scales of the dinosaurs perfectly, while the varying scale of the illustrations will keep readers on their toes—Cyrus is a master of the extreme close-up. Readers will thrill to the action and suspense while teachers will appreciate the subtle lesson on the life cycle of frogs. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
PEST FEST by Julia Durango
ANIMALS
Released: June 5, 2007

In beauty, talent and skills, the housefly can't compete against other bugs. But as a pest, he's a winner. Jaunty verses introduce an assortment of insects portrayed many times enlarged against a background of magnified parts of a fisherman revealed on the final endpapers. The brightly colored double-page paintings provide close-ups of the carpet beetle whi is Pest Fest master of ceremonies, as well as the undersides of contenders butterfly, firefly, cricket, cicada and spider. Contestants also include a dancing ladybug, a honeybee, a grasshopper, a water strider and other unnamed insects shown from a variety of unusual perspectives. Watching them strut their stuff, the forlorn housefly is shown from many different angles and magnifications, and finally, triumphantly victorious. Readers will enjoy returning to the pictures to identify the human body parts, clothing and fishing gear in the background. The familiar rhyme scheme (think "The Walrus and the Carpenter") is handled well, and the book begs to be read aloud. Clever and appealing. (Picture book/nonfiction. 3-7)Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 1, 2006

Lost in the labyrinth of metafiction, this sequel to Whales on Stilts (2005) continues its send-up of everything from chick-lit to the Hardy Boys, from books that address the reader to books once popular, but now shelf-sitters. Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut, whose books no one reads much anymore, Katie Mulligan of the Horror Hollow series, and their quiet sidekick Lily take off for a summer vacation. Katie wants a break, to sit by the pool, read Snazzy magazine and not solve mysteries. But wait! A priceless necklace vanishes. A man in a dark cloak moves about by echolocation. The Manley Boys, the Hooper Quints and the Cutesy Dell Twins are also in residence—but the Quints vanish! A near-impossible tangle of plots (nefarious), twists (hilarious) and asides (ridiculous) lead to, among other things, an entire subplot based on the throwaway line of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" and a snot-based death threat. Fiendishly clever withal—bending time a bit, warping references beyond all reason—it could be called profound if it weren't so knee-slappingly funny. Gee willikers, guys, when's the next one? (Fiction. 9-14)Read full book review >
MAMMOTHS ON THE MOVE by Lisa Wheeler
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 2006

With mountainous dignity, mammoths lumber across wide prehistoric landscapes as Wheeler traces their ancient annual round in verse: "Come colder days, those mammoth herds / migrated south, just like the birds. / Their menu had to be improved, / so mammoths packed their trunks and moved." Limning heavy tusks and each shaggy lock in strong lines and rich golden hues, Cyrus views the page-filling pachyderms from low angles, capturing a sense of their massive presence as they loom over small trees, plod through snow storms, gather in a defensive circle at the sight of a saber-toothed tiger and paddle, trunks up across deep water. (Wheeler notes at the outset that scientists extrapolate mammoth behavior from watching modern elephants.) Young audiences will be riveted by this compelling introduction, and rightly tempted to echo the awed refrain: "Big and bulky, / huge and hulky, / wide and woolly mammoths!" (Picture book nonfiction. 7-9)Read full book review >
HOTEL DEEP by Kurt Cyrus
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2005

The author/illustrator of Oddhopper Opera (2001) dives to a marine setting for 21 equally witty encounters between various undersea denizens and a small, strayed, rightly anxious sardine. The poems range from direct conversations—"How do you do? / Who do you eat? / Have you been chased? / Glad we could meet. / How do you taste? / How do you do? / Won't it be wonderful, / swallowing you?"—to general observations ("All the spiny lobsters trust / The guy behind, because they must"), and often twist through or around elaborate underwater scenes featuring exactly rendered creatures (identified in a visual key at the end) placed against arabesque traceries of rock and coral. Though untitled, so that it's sometimes hard to tell where one leaves off and the next begins, the poems are linked by a plot line that climaxes with both a curtain call for the entire cast, and that sardine's happy reunion with a teeming silver swirl of compatriots. A fine, finny outing, equally suitable for a quick dip or full immersion. (Picture book/poetry. 6-10)Read full book review >
BUDDY by Anne Bustard
BIOGRAPHY
Released: Feb. 1, 2005

Corn-pone language cripples this wholly inadequate picture-book biography of the rock 'n' roll pioneer. From the day the infant Buddy is "howdied . . . into this ol' world" through his early years when, "Boy, howdy! Just five years old and he lassoed first prize" at a talent show, into his young adulthood when, "Yeehaw! It was cooler than cool," he and a friend opened for Elvis, Bustard keeps up a relentless Grand Ole Opry patter that leaves no "g" undropped. The child reader who perseveres through this will learn that Holly's meteoric rise to success began when he was given a guitar in the sixth grade. Cyrus employs a pastel palette as he depicts the teenage Holly listening to the jukebox and the radio, soaking up country, gospel, and the blues, but although the text gives such influences lip service, it cannot give Holly enough depth to explain his place in the pantheon. In its slavish desire to include every West Texas-ism imaginable, it insults West Texans, Holly—whose singing sounds downright cultured next to this—and the reader. (author's note, discography, bibliography, web sites) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)Read full book review >
AVALANCHE ANNIE by Lisa Wheeler
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2003

The tale's tall, even if its hero isn't, in this rhymed account of a diminutive trail guide's awesome exploit. Leading a group of snowshoe racers up the slopes of northern Michisota's Mount Himalachia, four-foot-three-inch Annie Halfpint meets a wild avalanche coming down. Her wide Inuit face lit with glee, she snatches a rope and lassoes the beast, riding it safely down into Yoohoo Valley to the amazement of all. Wheeler tells the tale in sprightly verse—"Her voice booms soft as thunder. / Her hair grows thick as ink. / Her skin feels smooth as gravel. / Her mukluks hold their stink"—aptly reflected in Cyrus's comic scenes of dismayed hikers, rolling down the hill in a whirl of colorful parkas, amid giant curds of snow. Fans of Sally Ann Crockett, Angelica Longrider ("Swamp Angel"), and other female members of the tall-tale pantheon will definitely be looking up to Annie. (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
THE BONES OF FRED MCFEE by Eve Bunting
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

A brother and sister bring home a plastic skeleton from the harvest fair, hang him in their sycamore tree, and name him Fred McFee. When the wind blows, his bones go clickety-clack. Old dog Sam now avoids the tree and "the rooster's gone and the hens won't lay, / since we got Fred McFee." Then: "The dark is dropping like a cowl— / There's no star to be seen. / What's wrong with Sam? We hear him howl / This night of Halloween." The next morning McFee has vanished, gone from the sycamore tree, but below is a mound they know is a grave and they mark the spot with pebbles and shells. Now when the wind howls and shakes the tree, "We hear them dancing the dance of the dead—those bones of Fred McFee!" Told in rhyme with the rhythm of an old narrative poem, the story will work as a scary read-aloud but it's the attractive illustrations that cast the spell. The combination of smartly designed compositions and elongated perspectives creates an engrossingly eerie effect. The lines of the scratchboard and watercolors etch dimension into the shapes, pulling the scenes up in dramatic fashion. Jack-o'-lanterns shift from friendly to fearsome as they loom open-mouthed in the foreground. Fred is no namby-pamby skeleton; this is spookiness with attitude and a great new addition to Halloween shelves. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
ODDHOPPER OPERA by Kurt Cyrus
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2001

Cyrus (The Mousery, 2000, etc.) promises bugs and verses, and delivers plenty of both in this ground-level view of a vegetable garden's teeming residents. Depicting every creature from beetles, flies, snails, and spiders to the occasional snake ("Through the tangle, softly gliding, / Comes a long, long tummy sliding . . . ") or bird with delicious realism, he introduces such appealing characters as a confused young frog who wonders where his tail went, Mama Pitter-Patter-Pede with her "half a hundred legs," and a squad of industrious dung beetles: " 'Papa, O Papa Bug, what will we eat?' / 'It's gummy, it's yummy, it's dung! What a treat.' " The poems are distinct but untitled, connected both by common characters and by such running jokes as a season-long snail race, and a string of woozy ants that bonk heads to communicate. With no sacrifice of legibility, the page design is inventive too, with poems and pictures ingeniously wrapped together and occasional lines of text snaking along stems or through ground litter. Two-legged fans of Douglas Florian's Insectlopedia (1998) and J. Patrick Lewis's The Little Buggers (1998) will scurry after this verbal and visual tour-de-force. (Poetry. 7-10)Read full book review >
SIXTEEN COWS by Lisa Wheeler
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 2001

Verse with all the spunk of dueling banjos and honeyed watercolors are a pleasingly combustible combination in this rollicking romance. The story pivots about Cowboy Gene and Cowgirl Sue and their cows, who share adjoining acreage on the lonesome prairie. Cowgirl Sue has the high ground, while Cowboy Gene makes his home down in the valley, and never the two mix until the day a tornado comes through and sends their fence flying to parts unknown. When the herds start to mingle, both Gene and Sue set to yodeling for their charges. The cows first head toward Gene, then back toward Sue: "The cows all did the polka, as Sue commenced to singin'. / They trotted up to Waddle Ranch, their cowbells just a ringin'! / Sixteen cows together, ran up the hill and down. / Sixteen cows could not decide which was the sweeter sound." Finally, the two cowpokes stop their singing feud and start to admire each other's cows, then each other, plain and simple. Wedding bells split the air, and cows as bridesmaids make their first appearance in children's literature. A rousing little number, best read not right before bed, for the proceedings are spirited and the dancing cows inspire some serious high stepping. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
THE MOUSERY by Charlotte Pomerantz
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2000

Beautifully crafted artwork lifts a pedestrian rhymed text in this tale of two grumpy old bachelors who change their ways. Beneath the empty hood of a rusty abandoned car, Slice and Sliver have created a comfortable, cavernous nest, warmed by a quart-size oil-can stove and lined with hanging strips of newspaper. Through falling snowflakes, each different and looking like cut paper, come four shivering "mousekins" in ragged, patched sweaters. Reluctantly admitted through the headlight entrance, their delight and astonishment, as well as their industry in building up the fire, melt the codgers' hearts, leading to an open-door policy that soon sees dozens of scurrying new residents. Making every whisker, ear, berry, twig, torn bit of playing card, and fragment of newspaper distinct, Cyrus creates a set of sharply focused, increasingly busy scenes as the residents of the mousery huddle down cozily or leap exuberantly out into the snow. Children who pass up the cutesy verses—"How darling they were, / with their soft downy fur, / curled up in an untidy row"—to linger over the illustrations will be well-rewarded. (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
TANGLE TOWN by Kurt Cyrus
by Kurt Cyrus, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus
ANIMALS
Released: April 15, 1997

The glass door says ``pull,'' but the mayor is pushing, and he's getting blisters. This he tells to a passing policeman who offers help: ``Blisters . . . plenty of them.'' But the cop hears wrong, and he shouts, ``We need blasters! Twenty of them,'' to the gathering crowd. The crowd hears ``disaster,'' and mass panic ensues. So it goes in Tangle Town. Into the hubbub strolls Roxy Toppler, a farm girl looking for her wayward cow. ``What's going on?'' she asks, and the answers come fast. `` `The mayor!'—`The mayor got blistered!'—`Plastered!'—`Blasted to bits by twenty twisters!'—`Big, big disaster!' '' Swinging into action, Roxy deploys her ``barnyard instincts'' to herd the crazed mob, attain a semblance of order (defined in Tangle Town as anything other than total chaos), and find her cow. Cyrus's first book creates good slaphappy wordplay—the text can be read aloud in either a bark or a lilt—and his illustrations aptly convey both the frantic behavior of the crowd and the bird's nest of streets, overpasses, and buildings that make up this twisted city. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >