Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg

Nobody really knows who Harris Burdick is. The story goes that he dropped off a series of captioned illustrations and promised to drop the stories off later. He was never seen again. The black and white drawings were collected in a picture book, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. Children used the pictures as a creative writing exercise, making up their own stories for the drawings.

In The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, fourteen authors make up a story to go with the illustrations. The authors range from Gregory Maguire to Lois Lowry to Louis Sachar (I loved Wayside school as a kid!) to Stephen King. Their stories range from funny to slightly creepy to downright scary.

I'm going to finish this off by bursting the bubble: there was never actually a Harris Burdick. It was all a ruse to get kids to use their imaginations. Personally, I wish I could have participated in this exercise as a child, and I sort of still want to give it a try. Lemony Snicket's introduction is just an extra cherry on top, and I hope that any actual children who get their hands on this book find themselves inspired to write some stories as well.

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