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The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: 14 Amazing Authors Tell the Tales

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3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  5,305 ratings  ·  463 reviews
An inspired collection of short stories by an all-star cast of best-selling storytellers based on the thought-provoking illustrations in Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.

For more than twenty-five years, the illustrations in the extraordinary Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg have intrigued and entertained readers of all ages. Thousands o...more
Hardcover, 195 pages
Published October 25th 2011 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2011)
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Red Dot 2013: Older Readers: LONG LIST
6th out of 46 books — 24 voters
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Best Cover Art 2011 (Non-YA)
141st out of 278 books — 1,546 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Betsy
Chris Van Allsburg has always been the Rod Serling of the children’s literary world. Of that there can be no question. With no other author, not Gorey, not Snicket, not even R.L. Stine himself, will kids encounter that eerie feeling that can only be best associated with classic Twilight Zone episodes. All his picture books (even nonfiction ones like Queen of the Falls) suggest to the reader that ours is a world not far removed from the ones featured in his books. Maybe coloring books really do h...more
Crowinator
Actual rating: 3.5 stars.

The best stories in this collection have a sense of possibility, of capturing a moment at the beginning or in the middle of a much larger tale, inviting the reader to continue off the page with their own imagination. Those are also the stories that, for me, capture the spirit of the original Harris Burdick book (which I inexplicably found in my house – how did it get there?) -- the endless promise, and the strange and wonderful and dreadful directions in which each illu...more
The Rusty Key
Reviewed by Rusty Key Writer: Jordan B. Nielsen

Recommended for: Children (?) ages 10 and up for independent reading, or 7 and up if being read to (get ready to explain a lot of abstract metaphysical concepts to little Tommy), though I suspect this book will find its largest audience among those old enough to be lured in by the all-star author line up (guilty).

One Word Summary: Disappointing.

It was too good to be true. A collection of children’s short stories by fourteen of the most celebrated k...more
Kate
One of my favorite children's books of all time is The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. I was so excited to find a story by Stephen King based on one of the illustrations in Nightmares and Dreamscapes, so I was 14x excited to find that a whole book of short stories based on the illustrations was coming out!

These are stories that would appeal to a wide range of children and teens, and probably many adults as well, just like the original book. The stories are filled with magic a...more
-k The Lady Critic
When I was in grade 5 or 6 (some time in the late ‘90s) my teacher decided that we were going to do a literary unit on Chris Van Allsburg. The weeks that followed had us reading Jumanji, The Z was Zapped, The Polar Express, and every other Van Allsburg book that we had available in our school library. With each book we did a project and the one that went with The Mysteries of Harris Burdick was my favourite. That’s because the project that we did was this book.

Ok, it wasn’t this book exactly, bu...more
Tyler Jones
Allright! One book and I get to pass judgement on fourteen writers! Here goes:

Linda Sue Park 4.8 stars
Really fantastic. Intricate, interweaving of story lines with a great "hook". Hard to believe a story this nearly perfect was written as an excercise. Amazing.

M. T. Anderson 4.7 stars
Very nearly my favourite story of the collection with a great twist ending sure to blow the minds of young readers. A perfect match to the illustration.

Kate DiCamaillo 4.6 stars
She makes cat nip out of most of her p...more
Mary
More like 3.8 stars...
I'd "read" the original book by Chris van Allsburg years ago, and was really excited to see that some of my favorite authors had written stories to go along with the fabulous illustrations.
Some of the stories were great: Another Place, Another Time by Cory Doctorow about parallel universes; Mr. Linden's Library by Walter Dean Myers about the power of books.
Some were really good - I particularly enjoyed the fantasies: The Harp by Linda Sue Park about bickering sisters who...more
Jessie
When I was a young child, I wrote a letter to the publisher of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, offering my theories on what might have happened to the author. I was such a cute, precocious little nerd. Now as an adult I can obviously tell who really illustrated that book, but it's still much beloved by me. I was super excited about this collection, but I felt like it was just OK. There weren't a lot of standout stories for me. I found it really interesting how many times sailors and sea voyages...more
Wendy
I CAN'T WAIT to read this series of stories! I have LOVED the Harris Burdick book for use to spawn creative writing from my elementary students! I am intrigued to read what famous authors had to say! Yippee! It is about time! ;-)

So, in reading all of the different stories from each illustration, I found about 3 that I really liked and the rest were okay. I think that because I have had so many students write so many creative stories to go along with the illustrations, it is hard to top some of t...more
Meghan
I think that I love "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick" (which this book is based off of) too much to enjoy this book. I really wanted to like it, but the beauty of the origional book is that you are given a mysterious picture and a small caption for each chapter, and you have no idea what the story to connect the two would be. It's all up to you, and your imagination. Too many of these stories, all written by notable authors, bore no similarities to the ones I had imagined. That in of itself is o...more
ElphabaNewlin
I had never heard of the whole Harris Burdick concept until Katie picked this for her book club selection. Which is strange to me, because I feel like I should have heard of this super creative and kind of really awesome concept of Chris Van Allsburg publishing illustrations with captions next to them, and encouraging the audience to tell their own stories. Like I said, super creative. I really approve. The neat thing about this book is that it takes that concept and applies it on a pretty large...more
Steve
The concept of this book is in direct opposition to the concept of the original. Also, the stories suck.
H
A weird book, as weird in its way as the original picture book. Every story is well crafted, some are standouts, and none really pander to the children who will be reading them. The short stories are interesting and challenging, and most look for the reader to find meaning between the lines. Most of the tales veer into sci-fi and fantasy, as you'd expect, and many remind me of the stories from the old science fiction magazines I used to read in my early teens that led me into the genre of scienc...more
Alison
I’ve always enjoyed Van Allsburg’s picture books. They have some amazing artwork. The stories are a bit quirky but enjoyable. I knew I needed to read this book as soon as I heard about it. The Mysteries of Harris Burdick has some really interesting art, title, and captions. It would be pretty awesome to read the stories that big time authors write to go along with those pictures.

Like all short story collections, there are some good and not so good stories. Sherman Alexie’s “A Strange Day In July...more
Marika
Very very rarely, I will swoon over a book. Swoon-worthy books must not just be well-written, they have to be beautifully packed, or have exquisite illustration, mostly, all three. Four stories into The Chronicles of Harris Burdick I was already swooning. Mind you, this is the ARC, too, not the gorgeous hardcover that will be the best holiday gift when it hits shelves.

What strikes me as I read- one story at a time, with space between each to savor- is the inventiveness of the writers. Van Allsbu...more
Stuart
This follow up to Van Allsburg's infamous picture book is, like most collections composed of a sampling of different writers, a mixed bag. Happily, most of the stories are enjoyable, and some are excellent. Tabitha King's stands out as the least impressive (per usual with Mrs. King, one wonders if she'd have any career were she not married to Stephen King), and for my money the best is Sherman Alexie's wicked tale of two twins whose nasty pranks come back to haunt them. The rest of the stories r...more
April the Librarian
The idea behind this book is that a group of prints were found with no back story, only one drawing per page with a title or caption. In the past many children and adults developed their own story, based on these Chris Van Allsburg drawings.Were they random prints or did they all go to the same story? No one knew. It was up to each readers imagination.

This book picks up from those original prints and asks famous writers to develop an essay to go with each print. While the prints themselves are...more
Leslie
Who has not had Chris Van Allsburg’s Mysteries of Harris Burdick used as a writing prompt—besides Sean? N and I were kicking around the idea of checking the book out from the library when I heard The Chronicles of Harris Burdick was coming out. I told Natalya she still should write her own inspired piece, but there was no having The Chronicles in the house without her getting a hold of it. It features some of her favorite authors.

(11 for a while now) Natalya’s response the experience? She handed...more
Sarah T.
I came across this book while looking for a book club book for the adult literacy program I work for. The reading level and book length are on spot--I think this could be a good choice, although it would probably make a good book for October which has already passed. This book is essentially a companion book to "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick" which is a book with pictures, their titles, and short captions, and the reader is left to imagine the stories that the pictures go with. THIS book gives...more
Moira
OMG, OMG, OMG!!!! I tend to pass on reviewing a lot of children's literature because I don't want to hurt feelings of people who may, if I ever publish another work of fiction, be in a position to review my work. But sometimes I read something that is so great that I have to tell the world.

I have always adored The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg - a collection of incredible artwork with captions only. They are so inspiring. Now, some brilliant person decided to ask authors to...more
Woodge
I think any fan of children's books would be familiar with the works of Chris Van Allsburg. After all, he's written Jumanji, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, The Polar Express and many others. One of which was a beguiling collection of strange pictures with tantalizing captions called The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. In that book you were left to wonder what the stories were surrounding these unconnected pictures. Now 14 authors are trying their hand at it and the result is this handsome book. I deci...more
Audrey
When I taught middle school English, I used Chris Van Allburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick as short story prompts in my classroom. Once I stopped teaching, I brought my collection of prints home and now several of them hang in my house (I have "Mr. Linden's Library" in my office/bedroom, and Cami has "Oscar and Alphonse" in her room). When I found out that some of my favorite YA authors were going to be writing short stories to accompany these drawings, I was so excited. This collection, fo...more
Magpie
Finding this book was a fannish dream come true for me: Chris Van Allsberg is one of my favourite contemporary illustrators, and the list of contributing authors blew my childrens/YA-lit lovin' mind: Kate diCamillo, Jon Scieszka, Lois Lowry, Cory Doctorow...

I also loved the Twilight-Zoney Mid-Twentieth Century vibe, which is right up other fannish alleys of mine.

Some of the stories are fairly dark and/or trying too hard to be deep and literary, I think, which would make them challenging for you...more
Chanel Earl
This book was doomed to disappoint me. I loved the original book and imagined the stories many of the pictures illustrated. I even wrote my own story for the picture "Mr. Linden's Library," which, obviously, was nothing like the one in the book.

I can't imagine that any set of stories written about these pictures could ever be good enough because they wouldn't be the ones I imagine.

So, what did I think of the book then? I liked it. Several of the stories were a disappointment because either I di...more
Sarah
I was blown away by this book, mostly because I have used "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick" in class. I had anticipated using this book in conjunction, first having the students write their own story as I have done in the past, then reading the published story, but I believe that this book is a bit dark for elementary students. I will, however, pass the idea on to my high school English teacher sister.
I enjoyed reading the different stories (one per picture) written by well-known authors. It wo...more
Jenne
Mar 04, 2012 Jenne marked it as didnt-finish
I had to return this to the library before I read all the stories but as you might expect the stories mostly weren't as good as whatever I might have imagined when I first saw the pictures in The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.
Still, I liked Sherman Alexie's disturbing children, and Stephen King's house being taken over by a rocket ship, and especially MT Anderson's suburban idyll with a secret.
Nick
One of the neater Chris Van Allsburg books is The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, a collection of 14 images with cryptic captions (my favorite being the last one, a house blasting off with the title "It was a perfect lift off"). The idea is that you use the little cryptic caption and the picture and write a short story, or just let your imagination go wild. In this collection, fourteen authors are rounded up to write their own take on an image.

This book lives or dies on the writing quality (well,...more
Elizabeth K.
It's tough to grade a book that's a collection of short stories. So what we have here is the original Chris Van Allsburg book of mysterious illustrations, and then stories supplied by an impressive collection of writers, primarily children's book authors.

The Stephen King story is from one of his previous collections, but it's my recollection that it really was written to match this illustration (right?). The others, I believe, are new. For the most part, they tend to be a little dark, there are...more
Terri
The story goes that Harris Burdick long ago dropped off a book containing fourteen highly detailed drawing with a single caption for each. The drawings were a single representation for fourteen individual books that Harris Burdick would provide if the children's book editor, Peter Wenders, liked them.

He did. But Harris Burdick was never seen again. To this day his disappearance is unsolved...

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick takes these fourteen illustrations and the story for each is written by...more
Becky B
Short story collections are such a mixed bag, and when the stories are inspired by weird and fanciful illustrations, you get a mixed bag of truly strange stories. Some of the short stories felt like the authors really had an inspired idea to explain the story behind the illustration and others felt like they were hardly trying. But I did find that my favorite author's of the bunch (Park, DiCamillo and Lowry) wrote my favorite short stories of the bunch, so I guess they stayed somewhat true to th...more
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9685
Chris was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on June 18, 1949, the second child of Doris Christiansen Van Allsburg and Richard Van Allsburg. His sister Karen was born in 1947.

Chris’s paternal grandfather, Peter, owned and operated a creamery, a place where milk was turned into butter, cream, cottage cheese, and ice cream. It was named East End Creamery and after they bottled the milk (and made the ot...more
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“If you don't know where you're going, stop racing to get there. -- from Just Desert by M. T. Anderson” 6 likes
“Book lovers love books!" her mother announced. "There's romance about the books- even having them seems to have a kind of excitement."
from Mr. Linden's Library by Walter Dean Myers”
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