18 April 2010

"The Mysteries of Harris Burdick"

Chris Van Allsburg is a Caldecott-Medal-winning illustrator and author of children's books.  This past week I read his 1984 book, "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick," which consists of about a dozen images such as the one above ("Under The Rug"), and only the title and one sentence to go along with each picture (in this case "Two weeks passed and it happened again.")

You could read this book in five minutes, but that would defeat the purpose.  The idea is to ponder the illustration and the minimal text and then dream up a story of your own.  This would best be done by reading out loud in the company of a small child, so if you're going to read the book and don't have a child - borrow one.


  1. Jeepers, don't read that book to a small child--it's way too creepy! At least that particular illustration is. It would have given me nightmares.

  2. I agree--this is a fantastic book.
    I use it as the basis for an assignment in my high school creative writing class: Each student chooses a picture, title, and caption, and uses it as the inspiration for a story. The results are fantastic. My favorite ever was actually the response to the picture used to illustrate this post. It was a delightfully creepy story as imagined by one of my sophomores.

  3. Kids love to be scared! I read Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark when I was about 6, and those illustrations were MUCH darker. When the power went out for an entire night down here in NC, my nieces and nephew spent hours telling scary stories then sleeping with flashlights. It's one of their favorite memories of the year I've spent taking care of them!


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