"The Chronicles of Harris Burdick"
Published on Saturday, January 7, 2012 - 12:23pm
In 1984, Chris Van Allsburg created a picture book titled The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. The book consisted of 14 beautiful and fantastical black-and-white illustrations, each accompanied by a title and very short caption. The concept behind the book is that Van Allsburg found these illustrations at the home of a former children’s book publisher who had been given them by a man named Harris Burdick, who then disappeared never to be heard from again. This grabbed my attention immediately -- I loved this book. Van Allsburg’s art is amazing, and I’ve considered cutting the illustrations out to frame, if I could just overcome my inherent dislike of damaging books.
Since its publication, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick has been inspiring readers to create their own stories based on the illustrations. Now 14 best-selling authors have done just that in a new collection of short stories for children, The Chronicles of Harris Burdick. The results are delightful!
Let’s just take a look at that list of authors involved in this project: Chris Van Allsburg, Sherman Alexie, M.T. Anderson, Kate DiCamillo, Cory Doctorow, Jules Feiffer, Stephen King, Tabitha King, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, Walter Dean Myers, Linda Sue Park, Louis Sachar and Jon Scieszka, with a fabulous introduction by Lemony Snicket. That is a lot of big name author power right there, ladies and gentlemen.
When the library’s copy came in, I may have done a dance around my desk as I unpacked the box. Then I took The Chronicles of Harris Burdick home, settled in with a big cup of coffee, and devoured it.
Written in a variety of tones and styles, each story still manages to maintain the mysterious and haunting feeling of the original book. With stories ranging from Linda Sue Park’s heartwarming “The Harp” and Lois Lowry’s uplifting (literally) “The Seven Chairs” to the truly unsettling “Just Desserts” by M.T. Anderson there is surely something for every reader to enjoy.
I definitely have favorites. Jon Scieszka’s “Under the Rug” and Sherman Alexie’s “A Strange Day in July” are both so delightfully creepy I had to immediately re-read them. “Another Place, Another Time” by Cory Doctorow is a short story with a unique take on time travel that is perfect all on its own, but if Doctorow ever decided to expand it into a novel I’d be first in line to buy it.
Check out a copy of The Chronicles of Harris Burdick from the library today. Recommended for children ages 10 and up.
--by Patty Reeber, Children's Librarian
Take a moment to watch this wonderfully inventive book trailer featuring Lemony Snicket, Lois Lowry, Loius Sachar, Kate DiCamillo, M.T. Anderson, Linda Sue Park, Gregory Maguire and Jon Scieszka: