Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is the most original idea for a book that I've ever come across. Chris Van Allsburg's picture book is only thirty-two pages, but manages to be one of the most inspiring writing books I've seen.

It begins with a letter from Van Allsburg, telling the story of a children's book publisher who was visited by the mysterious Harris Burdick. He shares fourteen drawings, with a caption and a title for the accompanying story. Harris Burdick was never heard from again. This story is enough to hook any reader before even seeing the captivating illustrations.

The illustrations and titles vary from creepy, enchanting, and mystical. All are thought-provoking and beg the reader to put pen to paper in order to tell the stories. For "A Strange Day in July" (right), the reader gets the line, "He threw with all his might, but the third stone came skipping back." It is up to the reader to decide what would cause the stone to come back and where the story goes from there. Those familiar with Van Allsburg's books will be delighted by the artwork, which can almost seem like photographs in their intricate details.

I have had this book for one day and have already read through it three times, thinking of all the fun we will have in writing class with this masterpiece. There is a follow-up book, called The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, in which some of my favorite authors write their interpretations of the stories. I'd like to believe that I am able to hold out and rely on my imagination, but I've always been a sucker for spoilers, so I'll probably be on the hunt for this soon!

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