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The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

4.52  ·  Rating details ·  6,288 ratings  ·  655 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 ...more
Unknown Binding, 16 pages
Published October 28th 1996 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published 1984)
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Blue Under the book description there is a section labeled 'get a copy' with links to places that you can get the book from. Try your local library or book…moreUnder the book description there is a section labeled 'get a copy' with links to places that you can get the book from. Try your local library or bookseller too, many will order books a patron requests. (less)
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Average rating 4.52  · 
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J.K. Grice
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I discovered this book a few years after it was published. It's just absolutely amazing, especially if the background story is really true about the "mystery" of Harris Burdick. For many years I used this book as a writing and illustration prompt for my art students in upper elementary. I made slides of the entire book in 1988, and my kids and I would dissect the possibilities for every illustration and caption. Each student would then choose one of the 14 drawings to write their own tale, creat ...more
This book is so interesting, but it’s also a tease. We get one page from Chris Van Allsburg. I’m not sure why it has his name on it unless this is really Chris’s work and this is the story within a story.

1st: This is a wordless story once you read the first page.
2nd: The set-up is, Chris was at his editors house and found these 14 drawings that someone sent in that would be 14 stories and the man never came back who dropped them off. They are beautiful drawings.
3rd: It is basically a group of
Apr 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chris Van Allsburg is one of my must-collect illustrators, as I just love his work. He combines detail with imagination and he has never let me down. While I still rank Queen Of The Falls as his best, this mysterious book of wordless stories comes very close.

The premise of this book is explained by a fictional backstory about drawings from a puzzling artist who never provides the stories for each illustration. Therefore, it's up to each reader to provide the possibilities and each of us coul
Charlie Fan
May 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Klaudia Maniakowska
I find this book totally amazing. The only word that comes to my mind after reading it is MYSTERY. Not only is the whole story of Mr. Burdick who never returns to Mr. Wender mysterious. In fact, every picture in this book is baffling. Due to the fact that the drawings are black and white, the author skillfully plays with light making the illustrations appear uncanny. The captions are so puzzling that they allow the readers to come up with a multitude of possible stories. I enjoyed the fact that ...more
Ben Loory
May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Would've loved this if it had been twice as long ...more
The story behind how the author found the drawings is fascinating yet eerie. Where did Mr. Harris Burdick go? Did he die before meeting with the publisher? Or is all of this just a made-up story? By the time I write this review, I am still wondering about the drawings. Are they really Mr. Burdick's works or the author works?

And, I realized this book is created by the same author as Jumanji and the drawings are quite similar. Let me stop thinking about this.

I figured this book because of an antho
High Plains Library District
I visited a book sale this weekend, and I won't even tell you how many titles I walked away with. But I want to talk about this gem. It's one of my favorite children's books and has been since I was the intended audience.

It's by Chris Van Allsburg whose name you may have seen with regard to Jumanji, The Polar Express, Zathura, and several other amazing books. He is known for his incredible illustrations and wildly imaginative stories. The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is no different.

The idea is t
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Have you ever read a book when you were really young and then forgot about it to the point that you thought you imagined the whole thing? Yeah, that's this book for me.

I read it when I was 9 or 10 years old for a school project. I remember being really creeped out by the pictures, but also really fascinated. I recently discovered it again, and it's just as eerie as I remember it to be. Each one is creepy and strange and there's so much ambiguity and ah. So cool. So much imagination. I love it.

Jun 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loved it. The old-fashioned tradition of the past returns: the author purports to believe that the real author of the pictures has disappeared and the quest to unearth some details from his life still continues. That is an efficient method to capture the reader's attention and heighten a sense of mystery. The pictures are silent stories that have a chance to flourish in our imagination: we have no plot but a short caption. A splendid chance to stimulate our imagination. After all, we can spend m ...more
Amanda Mic Perkins
Beautiful art, and it's true- you can't help but fill in the blanks. ...more
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017
I bought this book for my niece for Christmas. I’m so excited to share it with her. This was one of my favorite books as a kid. It made me feel excited and a little bit scared.
This would be a great "story" to share with an older toddler and let them make up the stories as you look at the pictures together. The illustrations are beautiful, almost haunting and the captions may trigger a story in your imagination. I wish I had discovered this book when my girls were young! ...more
Totally amazing.
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author is so very very creative....and his readers will be very very imaginative as they read.
Stuart Willy
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
“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
Oct 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is not at all the story I was expecting when I picked it up. Having read a lot of Chris Van Allsburg's books, I did know to prepare for a bit of a mystery, and perhaps something unexplained or marvelous. This book is those things, but it's also a little bit more.

As it turns out, The Mystery of Harris Burdick is indeed, a mystery. The entire book hinges on the Introduction, so make sure you don't miss this page. (My young daughter skipped the intro, and came to me holding this book, stating
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is a picture book containing fourteen black and white drawings. These black and white drawings are like something out of another dimension! Each drawing stands alone, with only a title and a short caption to introduce it to the reader. The black and white pictures are large, covering an entire page. Take your time because there are many details in each illustration that you won't want to miss! Some stand out and are easily identified, but others are a mystery and ...more
Shelby Suderman
This book has been with me since grade school when our class was first assigned to write a story for one of the mysterious pictures and captions. To this day I still pull it out when I'm looking for inspiration.

There's something eerie and haunting about the pictures and captions that really sparks the imagination, it's really easy to just sit and try and analyze what's going on and figure out what came before and what came after these pictures from the stories none of us will ever get to read.

Sarah -  All The Book Blog Names Are Taken
When I was in sixth grade, I had the most amazing teacher ever for English. One of our exercises was to write a story about one of several pictures he had placed around the classroom. As a sixth grader, I chose to write a story about the little girl who was holding two caterpillars in her hand. My story involved this little girl finding these magic caterpillars that did tricks and she trained them and that helped her get a way from the turmoil within her family involving her mother and her mom's ...more
Neil R. Coulter
I first encountered The Mysteries of Harris Burdick years ago, when my kids were much younger. It was at a time when we were enjoying Chris Van Allsburg's classics (I especially remember reading The Z Was Zapped many, many times; I still have it memorized). I loved Harris Burdick, but never got a copy for our home bookshelf. Yesterday at the Public Library, on the shelf in front with books for sale, there it was: $1.00 for a pristine hardcover copy. I brought it home and admired each story once ...more
Annie ⚜️
Jan 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens
One of my son's all time favorite books is The Polar Express. I'd heard this Van Allsburg was good too and wanted to give it a shot. It seemed like such a brilliant concept: fourteen illustrations, along with a book title and a caption. You fill out the rest.

I still think it's a brilliant idea but my kid got totally annoyed and frustrated when I tried to get him to make up stories to go with the pictures. I realize that's our issue not Van Allsburg's of course.

That being said, the illustrations
Amy Layton
Mar 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: picturebooks
With Van Allsburg's usual style and eerie sense of storytelling, he does an amazing job at simultaneously telling so much and yet so, so little.  If the illustrations don't tell you much, their captions tell you less.  They're strange, curious, and almost larger than life.  These illustrations are sure to let even the most serious child daydream and wonder--perhaps making it a rather dangerous book for those more inclined towards fantasies!  Great for children of all ages--it's sure to be a fasc ...more
Tom Malinowski
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: juvenile, fiction
Harris Burdick left behind 14 drawings, each with a title and a blurb about the picture. No one hasn't seen him since he dropped of his work... Now they're published, that will inspire all, give you the creeps, and make you scratch your head again and again. This book is for such a wide range of ages because creative mysteries should be explored no matter how young you are. ...more
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Looking for an easy quick exercise to stoke the imagination? Check this book out.

Comprised of 14 illustrations juxtaposed with a mystery sentence:
eg. Archie Smith, Boy Wonder....A tiny voice asked, "Is he the one?"
Under the Rug....Two weeks passed and it happened again.

I might use this book or something similar in workshops to inspire creativity....especially with adults!
Sep 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Brent by: Krista W.
Awesome ! I cannot explain this book, you'll have to do that yourself. let's just say it lets your imagination take a journey of it's own choosing. ...more
Michael Fitzgerald
Jan 05, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Interesting, but maybe not worth having a whole book filled with these. They would probably work better as once-a-month New Yorker-type cartoons.
Sep 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the best writing prompt books I ever used in the classroom. Always, always I got some marvelous writing.
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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

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