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The Mysteries of Harris Burdick
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The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

4.55 of 5 stars 4.55  ·  rating details  ·  3,876 ratings  ·  394 reviews

Fourteen black-and-white drawings, each accompanied by a title and a caption, entice readers to make up his or her own story. A fictional editor's note tells of an encounter with an author and illustrator named Harris Burdick, who provided the images and captions as samples, each from a different picture book he had written. He left with a promise to deliver the complete m

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Unknown Binding, 16 pages
Published October 28th 1996 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published 1984)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kathryn
Aug 24, 2009 Kathryn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kathryn by: Q--thank you!
Beautifully illustrative and wonderfully imaginative, not only in the execution but in the way it will inspire readers to think of "the rest of the story." Each illustration is accompanied by just a few words of text--they are supposedly taken from manuscripts by "Harris Burdick" and are only one piece to the whole story... so it is left to the readers to imagine the rest. Almost like visual "story starters." The illustrations contain a variety of themes, from mysteries to joys to sorrows to mys...more
Qt
Love this book! It's a picture book, but doesn't exactly tell a story--rather, it's a collection of detailed, sepia-colored illustrations, apparently unrelated, each with a title and a sentence. For example, there might be a picture of a house blasting off like a rocket, and the sentence would be something like "It was a perfect take-off." Absolutely wonderful imagination-sparkers--each illustration just begs for a story to be made up about it! Of course, you can interpret the pictures any way y...more
Charlie Fan
14 illustrations. 14 captions. A picture book, then? Yes, but each scene is a loaded gun and you are the trigger.

It's introduction is somewhat apocryphal: the author is not the actual author but merely a messenger of sorts. Chris Van Allsburg discovered the set of drawings whilst visiting the home of Peter Wenders. Thirty years ago (as of 1984), these drawings were presented to Peter Wenders by a man named Harris Burdick with the intent of publishing 14 stories for a children's book. Harris Bur...more
Jennica
Jennica Munden
Picture Books
Critical analysis: This is a collection of images produced by a mysterious man named Harris Burdick. Mr. Wenders, though he is retired now, once worked for a children’s book publisher. About 30 years ago, Mr. Burdick came to Mr. Wenders office to offer 14 written stories for which he had drawn many pictures for, and had brought one for each story to see if Mr. Wenders liked them. Mr. Wenders did like them, and requested to see the stories as soon as possible. However,...more
Kristin
Each year at my school we host a visiting author. As a part of that author visit, teachers create workshops that focus on different aspects of writing. Over the years, I've tried a variety of workshops -- none of them particularly interesting or well attended. This year, I decided to try something new!


The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg is a truly unique book. The preface to the story is that the drawings that followed were a part of a book that was lost. Unfortunately, no one...more
Ronyell
“The Mysteries of Harris Burdick” is a brilliantly surreal book from Chris Van Allsburg and it is full of various stories that a mysterious man named Harris Burdick leaves behind for Chris Van Allsburg’s friend Peter Wenders to read over and the stories that the mysterious man leaves are only drawings that have titles and small captions under the titles. “The Mysteries of Harris Burdick” is a beautifully surreal book that will enchant children for many years.

Chris Van Allsburg had done a magnifi...more
Katie
Picking up this book, I was drawn in by the mysteriousness of it all. Is the introduction about the author and illustrator, Harris Burdick, true or was it created to set the mood of the book? It is up to the reader to decide what they believe. I choose to believe the story of Burdick is true because I think it gives the illustrations a deeper and more mysterious meaning. It makes you wonder: what really were his stories behind these illustrations? Each of the dark and ominous fourteen illustrati...more
Stuart Willy
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg

The brilliance of anything someone recommends is that there is the slim chance you might just have that little connection when you both love it as much as one another. It’s something that is surprisingly rare but when it happens, it’s a joy. Not only do you get the experience of the recommended item but also the shared connection. When this happens with a book it is all the more rewarding for all the reasons that lead us as adults to love book...more
Cynthia
For the illustrations alone I give 5 stars and this wonderful book really opens your imagination without effort. This book really brings out the kid in me. The excitement I felt imaging what could possibly come next and knowing that I can come up with my own ending is just priceless. I forget sometimes how fun it is to read great children's books.
Danielle Boles
The Msyteries of Harris Burdick could not have been titled any better than it was. Each page has an image with a title of the image listed by it. I think this is an awesome book because it allows the readers to come up with their own story. Each image has it's own story portrayed by lights, mood, and subtext under the title of the story. Everything is so dramatic throughout the story and each image is meant for the reader to be left with cliffhangers and mysteries. Even though it does not have a...more
Peter
Beautiful evocative drawings, each with a caption that implies a mysterious 'lost' narrative. A bit like the hand drawn children's picture book version of a bunch of Gregory Crewdson photographs. It is such a great concept and, as the book suggest, probably great for an inspiring children's or fantastical creative writing. I only wish the book was twice as long.
Courtney
Oct 25, 2009 Courtney added it
Recommends it for: creative people
This is an intriguing picture book. There are no words but it has well-crafted pictures that capture a moment of mystery. This book could be used from 3rd grade through high school to trigger the imagination. Students could work on there own storytelling/writing skills through a response to this book.
Courtney
Van Allsburg, C. The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. HMH Books for Young Readers (1996).

This picture book is compiled of 14 pictures without words, that invite the reader to create their own version of what is going within the picture. Harris Burdick was the original creator of the photographs, but disappeared mysteriously before ever giving an explanation of the photos.

The reading level is ages 9-13. While younger students could make up their own stories, some of the pictures are not appropriate f...more
J.cuevas
I never knew it was not a story book or novel. But it as good. I like the story prompts especially the ideas about Captain Tory and Oscar and Alphonse.
Candis
So fun, and am already delving in to some of the stories that were inspired by these interesting and creepy images!
Laura
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is an exquisitely illustrated picture book that successfully inspires both terror and intrigue. It's a series of unconnected black and white pencil illustrations, each depicting an eerie or foreboding scene straight out of a classic horror film: monsters under the floorboards, visitors from outer space, inexplicable objects with supernatural qualities. This book is filled with the fiends that menaced your childhood dreams.

Each image is accompanied by a simple tit...more
Josiah
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick really is a book like no other. I first became aware of it when my teacher shared it with our class in second grade, and the short beginning fragments of narrative that entirely make up the book have played with my mind ever since then.

Each "story" is actually only a single line of text, accompanied by a shadowy picture that sheds just the smallest amount of light upon what is said in the text. A hint of a story, usually something dark and a little bit frighteni...more
Robert
While I don't normally play the superlative game, this is probably my favorite Chris Van Allsburg book.

The premise of this is that Harris Burdick dropped off 14 drawings to a children's book publisher back in the 1950s. Each had a title and a caption. Burdick promised to return with the stories that accompanied each drawing. He never returned.

So what we are left with are 14 highly interesting illustrations with captions that act as story starters. I used to have each image in poster size for my...more
Kellie Wagner
I am unbelievably intrigued by this book and the mystery behind it. The book is completely made up of black and white photos with only a sentence of information. The photos are nothing you would see in everyday life. They include images to encourage creative thinking, and I can't wait to use this book for writing prompts in my creative writing workshops. You MUST get your hands on it!

For example, one of the photos includes a room with a window open and the curtain blowing in the breeze. The wall...more
Traci
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Val Allsburg is quite a mystery indeed. Chris stumbled on Harris Burdick through a friend named Peter Wenders. Burdick called upon Wenders to publish stories he had written, along with pictures that he had drawn for each story. Wenders asked Burdick to bring in the stories the next day, but he never returned and was never heard from again. Who was Harris Burdick? Van Allsburg published this book in honor of Burdick. The snippets of text from each story al...more
Morgan Elliott
This a story mostly told with the pictures. Each illustrations is somewhat related it but it is up to the reader to specifically use their imagination and broaden the story. I love that the pictures are in black and white but I think if it was in color it could have brought more imagination to the pages. I rate this book a 5 out of 5 because of how different it is. Another reason this book is mostly told through pictures is because of how little words there are. Each spread is titled with a capt...more
Julie
I love the concept and the background story to this book, it is a reflection of Van Allsburg's genius once more. However, I feel that this book will either be a hit or a miss with readers. I feel that kids would enjoy this book because they like mysteries; the disappearance of Harris Burdick is nothing short of a mystery. Readers who enjoy using their imaginations will also love trying to invent stories to go along with each page; it is almost a childhood instinct to see a vague statement and a...more
Karen
Chris Van Allsburg has created a book that is one-of-a-kind! This is a book that one must read the introduction for. The introduction develops many more questions than it does answers, but does make the rest of the book make sense. One of the main questions is.. Is the introduction fiction or nonfiction. According to the introduction, Van Allsburg visited a friend of his, Peter Wenders, who was a book editor who showed him 14 pictures. These fourteen pictures were given to him by Harris Burdick....more
Emily
Jan 03, 2010 Emily rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: teachers
This collection of pictures is part of the intriguing mystery of a real man named Harris Burdick. A book editor was visited by a man named Harris Burdick who wanted to pitch his book ideas for the children's picture books that he had written and illustrated. He brought with him one picture from each book with a title and a caption . The editor was very interested in the man's work and asked him to come back the next day and bring his entire works. He agreed and left his drawings with the editor....more
Jill Guccini
One of my favorite picture books of all time. So many ideas for using in the classroom/for use as writing prompts.

ETA: I just saw the new version of this book at Powell's, wherein many beloved children's authors tell their own tales behind the mysterious images of Van Allsburg's. I didn't know this book existed until then, and I have to say I pretty much hate the whole idea of it, no matter how much I love most of the authors that are included. I'm sure many of the stories are really wonderful s...more
Lani
Nov 09, 2007 Lani rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: TEACHERS!, creative minds looking for inspiration
Shelves: education, kids
This book is probably my absolute favorite book by Van Allsburg. The premise is fun, basically a collection of illustrations that are beginnings of Harris Burdick's un-finished stories.

I used it in my fifth grade class to prompt writing ideas and the kids went crazy. We just selected 5 or 6 of the illustrations and passed them around the room, but some of the stories that came back were awesome. Some kids tied two pictures together in their story, other's just ran with one detail they particular...more
Abby
This is one of the most fascinating, imaginative, unique, and mysterious children's books that I have ever read. I loved it! The concept is so creative, and it leaves the reader so free to use his/her own imagination.
Each page has an illustration with a title and a caption. Each illustration is from a different story, but we never learn what the stories are. It is impossible to read this book and not think about what those stories could be. This would be a very fun book for bedtime stories.
Also,...more
lprater
Part of literature unit:

This beautifully illustrated nearly wordless book is a perfect addition to a unit on mystery. Beginning with the introduction of how the pictures were obtained from the mysterious Mr. Burdick to the title and only excerpt from each accompanying story for each of the fourteen illustrations, this book has been an inspiration to many authors young and old. Chris Van Allsburg magically captures the reader’s attention with his detailed images in gray, black and white. Each ima...more
Maria
The first time I read this picture book, I believed the story in the introduction of the book. The second time I read it, I changed my mind. It is an intriguing picture book because it offers just a title and a caption for each of the illustrations. As the title of this book reads each illustration is a mystery created by a man named Harris Burdick or Christ Van Allsburg. The idea how Allsburg crafted the book is quite original.

I actually had seen two of these drawings before, but I did not know...more
Hayden Drescher
This book is the most interesting picture book I have ever read. Each page has a different untold story. In every black and white picture there is a hidden message, supernatural element, and an overwhelming feeling of curiosity. As soon as I read the introduction about how Van Allsburg obtained these drawings with working titles/captions I was intrigued. At the end I had to go back a look through them again because I knew I missed something out of each. The dove coming off the wall, the hiker in...more
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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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