Here at Upstart Crow, few events make us happier than when our clients’ books appear out in the world. That really is the ultimate triumph—when the book is on shelves, awaiting the fancy of a passing reader. Making that debut all the sweeter is when the reviewers recognize the genius of the talent involved (for if the talent involved didn’t partake of genius, we wouldn’t be working with him or her, right?
Next month marks the publication of Kurt Cyrus’s picture book The Voyage of Turtle Rex, and its first two reviews are in—both starred raves that recognize Kurt’s singular talents as a writer and illustrator. The first is from Kirkus Reviews:
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.
The second rave will appear in Publishers Weekly. They write:
In this companion to Tadpole Rex, a prehistoric turtle hatches on a “primeval beach” and slips beneath the waves. Cyrus’s illustrations incorporate dramatic scale, movement, and majesty: the spreads are a marvel of lighting and texture, as swirling ocean and sky symbolize the passage of time (“The hatchling who hid in the seaweed was gone…/ grown to a two-ton archelon”). As the turtle treads the starlit sea after laying her eggs, Cyrus comments on species loss: “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.” A moving and truly epic journey. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)
We couldn’t be happier with the reception of Turtle Rex, and we think when you pick up the book you’ll see why: This is a picture book creator at the top of his form as both a writer and an illustrator. Perfect for the young marine paleontologists in all of us.