Suspend Your Disbelief

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Bookish Gift Idea #19: The Chronicles of Harris Burdick

Did you encounter The Mysteries of Harris Burdick when you were a kid? If so, you probably remember Chris Van Allsburg’s eerie black-and-white illustrations and the evocative sentences—each the merest sliver of a story—that accompanied them.

When I was in fifth grade, my teacher asked us to choose a picture and write a story to go along with it. I chose the one to the right, which was titled “Archie Smith, Boy Wonder” and bore the caption, “A tiny voice asked, ‘Is he the one?'”

No, I’m not going to share the story. But the fact that I remember the image vividly decades later–—as well as the exact words that sparked the story—tells you something about how magical Harris Burdick is.

Now, publisher Houghton Mifflin has commissioned a series of “official” young-adult short stories to go with these beloved images. The Chronicles of Harris Burdick includes stories by Sherman Alexie, Jules Feiffer, Stephen King, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, Louis Sachar, Jon Scieszka, Lemony Snicket, and Chris van Allsburg himself, among others, and would make a great gift for a grownup who loved the original mysteries—or for a child just discovering the magic of storytelling.

Here’s the book trailer:

I admit I’m not sure how I like the “official” label—part of the joy of the Mysteries, after all, was how much was implied by the pictures and captions but never explained away. But I also admit I’d love to see what stories these authors came up with.

You can learn more about Harris Burdick at the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt website, and both The Mysteries of Harris Burdick and The Chronicles of Harris Burdick are available at bookstores. And check back here at FWR every day in December for another bookish gift idea!

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