The Chronicles of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg are a selection of short stories, based on a picture book (and large photo set) of wonderfully elaborate images from the same mind and pen as Jumanji, Zathura, The Wretched Stoneand many others. The story, as told by Van Allsburg is this: The mysteriou
s author, Harris Burdick, appeared with fourteen illustrations, each with a simple caption as an introduction to a book he was writing. He left the book with Peter Wenders, never to return. Wenders, in turn, shared them with Van Allsburg who has ostensibly published them as by the mysterious Mr. Burdick
As a teacher, I adore these images, as they can spark incredible discussion and creativity in students. No matter the age group, no matter the structure used for instructions, these pictures never fail to grasp student interest and enthusiasm. As a result, I must confess to mixed feelings when I received this copy from NetGalley for review. Did I really want to have my own flights of fancy dashed by reading other authors’ views? I’m pleased to report that, while some of the stories may not be what I had imagined, they are still worth a read.
The book contains fourteen different stories by a variety of children’s and adult fiction writers – 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, Jon Scieszka, Lemony Snicket, and Chris Van Allsburg himself. Some are familiar names, while others were only introducing themselves to me for the first time. The book begins with an introduction by Lemony Snicket, who darkly proposes that the mysterious Harris Burdick is, in fact, one of the very authors of one of the short stories (heaven forbid!). Each short story then begins with a boilerplate illustration of the selected Burdick image, complete with caption to refresh the reader’s memory. The stories may not be what I pictured in my mind as I read the tales, but they are delightful nonetheless.
Well worth a read, and definitely a great way to explore some new authors if you aren’t familiar with them!