14 Stories Reveal the Mysteries of Harris Burdick

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick Revealed

"Is there any author more mysterious than Harris Burdick? Modesty prevents me from answering this rhetorical question, but the fact remains that Harris Burdick has cast a long and strange shadow across the reading wolrd..." - Lemony Snicket

More than twenty-five years ago, writer and illustrator, Chris Van Allsburg, introduced readers to the strange and mysterious drawings of Harris Burdick. The picture book titled, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, published by Houghton Mifflin in 1984, opens with a short tale about a curious meeting between Peter Wenders and Harris Burdick. While working in his office one day, Wenders, who worked for a book publisher, was visited by Harris Burdick, who had written and illustrated fourteen stories. Burdick brought one picture from each story to see if Mr. Wenders was interested in publishing his work. Wenders was fascinated by the drawings and asked to read the stories right away. Burdick said he’d bring the stories the next day, but was never seen again.

The fourteen black-and-white illustrations, each with a title and caption, are full of intrigue, surprise, and magic. For years, readers have imagined stories to go with these puzzling images.

Now, fourteen writers reveal the mysteries behind each of Harris Burdick’s fascinating drawings. The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, published this fall (2011) by Houghton Mifflin, includes an introduction by Lemony Snickett, the original drawings, titles, and captions by Chris Van Allsburg, and fourteen short stories by fourteen extraordinary writers. The stories are every bit as peculiar, haunting, magical, strange, surprising, creepy, and unpredictable as the original images. From mystical harp music and a levitating nun to intelligent caterpillars and a house taking off like a rocket, these stories are sure to ignite the imagination and leave you spell-bound.

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg, stories written by Tabitha King, Jon Scieszka, Sherman Alexie, Gregory Maguire, Cory Doctorow, Jules Feiffer, Linda Sue Park, Walter Dean Myers, Lois Lowry, Kate DiCamillo, M.T. Anderson, Louis Sachar, Chris Van Allsburg, and Stephen King. – Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011. ISBN: 978-0-547-54810-4


Cheli Mennella

Cheli has been involved with creative arts and education for most of her life, and has taught many subjects from art and books to yoga and zoology. But she has a special fondness for kid’s books, and has worked in the field for more than 20 years. She is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Valley Kids and teaches a course for adults in “Writing for Children.” She writes from Colrain, where she lives with her musician-husband, three children, and shelves full of kid’s books.

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