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Monday, September 09, 2013

Hotel Deep

Hotel Deep

Light Verse from Dark Water
by Kurt Cyrus


To write a picture book that one is illustrating (or is it to illustrate the book one is writing?) must be a perfect boon.

And possibly a curse.

One the one hand, the illustrations can narrate a parallel story, rather than simply help visualize the text, thereby providing control over what to present as a whole package; on the other, however, how does the writer know when to stop and let the illustrator finish up (or vice versa)?

Tough work! And quite a few incredibly talented people have managed to do it, and do it well.

Starting with The Voyage of Turtle Rex, we've enjoyed many of Mr.Cyrus' books including Tadpole Rex and Oddhopper Opera; plus the many that were written by other authors but illustrated by him, like Pest Fest, The Bones of Fred McFee and Sixteen Cows.

So, when we found Hotel Deep at the library, it easily became the top favorite. And then, by sheer luck, we got to meet the author recently at the Oregon State Fair and get an autographed copy of the book as well.



Affable and unpretentious, Mr.Cyrus seemed oblivious to the fact that his books have brought a lot of joy not just to the kids but to the parents and teachers and caregivers who read his books to the kids.

And not surprisingly, his books have been one of the few that I gladly give as gifts at kids' birthday parties.

Hotel Deep, as the subtitle says, is a collection of light verses about creatures that live in the deep dark waters.

The angler flaps her fleshy flap
A shrimp comes in. The jaws go snap!
The angler doesn't have a clue
Why shrimp come in. They simply do.
And so she eats them. Wouldn't you?

As an outstanding artist, Mr.Cyrus packs a wonderful visual treat in all his books. The illustrations in Hotel Deep are simply gorgeous and one cannot just "read" this book in a hurry. Kids take their time on each page, noticing the details, as do the adults.

Sardines at the end was an instant hit, making us laugh and count how many "sardines" there are on the double-page spread. Especially since, somewhere near the beginning of the book we read:

One sardine. Apart. Alone.
Welcome to the Mystery Zone.

...

Lost and lean, a lone sardine
Haunts the doorways of the sea.
"Please, has anybody seen 
A million other fish like me?"

Even the common Barnacles are featured:
...
They pull in their heads at the sound of a stranger,
Ever aquiver, though never in danger.
...

And so are the pretty little Angulate Wentletrap.

One of my favorites is a melancholy poem about a mother octopus who brings forth the next generation and simply dies, as she is destined to do.

Rather than flat lines of text, our eyes do a lot of acrobatics while reading this book - swirling, swooping, darting, swimming as they follow the words in the page, and the action.

Apparently, Hotel Deep in its original form is pretty unrecognizable from the brilliant one we behold today. Conceived in 1986, Hotel Deep wasn't born until 2005, undergoing multiple operations during those years. Laced with self-deprecating humor, the author shares precious insight he has gained from years of being good at what he does.


[My interview with Kurt Cyrus for Saffron Tree]


[image source: kurtcyrus.com]










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