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The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

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Overview

Fourteen black-and-white drawings, each accompanied by a title and a caption, entice readers to make up his or her own story. "Layered in mystery, this extraordinary book will stun imaginative readers of all ages." -- School Library Journal, starred review

Presents a series of loosely related drawings each accompanied by a title and a caption which the reader may use to make up his or her own story.

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Overview

Fourteen black-and-white drawings, each accompanied by a title and a caption, entice readers to make up his or her own story. "Layered in mystery, this extraordinary book will stun imaginative readers of all ages." -- School Library Journal, starred review

Presents a series of loosely related drawings each accompanied by a title and a caption which the reader may use to make up his or her own story.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A new portfolio edition offers the artwork from Chris Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, originally published in 1984, in loose oversized sheets. The enigmatic black-and-white drawings are each accompanied by a title and brief caption: for example, a picture of a nun placidly sitting in a chair floating in a cathedral is labeled "THE SEVEN CHAIRS: The fifth one ended up in France." The portfolio also includes a 15th drawing, discovered under circumstances as mysterious as the original set. A new Internet site, set to launch on October 28, will encourage the use of the pictures to seed creative writing assignments.
Children's Literature - Allen Ball
What do a mysterious illustrator, a glowing pumpkin, and a levitating nun have in common? Each appears in Chris Van Allsburg's gorgeously-illustrated yet cryptic picture book. The author and illustrator of such seminal picture books as Jumanji and The Polar Express, Van Allsburg creates a moody, atmospheric black-and-white world of seemingly unrelated images in the pages of this work. The book opens with the mysterious conditions under which the images appeared. The images also incorporate the cryptic nature of the introduction, which informs the reader of Harris Burdick's back story. Birds fly off printed wallpaper, boats sail toward unknown locations, and seemingly innocuous homes prepare for liftoff. Each image appears with a small caption. For instance, the image of a young boy sleeping in his room is accompanied by a caption that reads, "ARCHIE SMITH, WONDER BOY: A tiny voice asked, ‘is he the one?'" Because no clear narrative links the images together, parents will have the opportunity to create millions of bedtime stories based on the intriguing images and their captions. Creative writers of all ages can use the images as the starting point for their writings. Like Van Allsburg's better-known works, this one ranks as a must-have picture book for school and home libraries alike. Reviewer: Allen Ball
From the Publisher

"Layered in mystery, this extraordinary book will stun imaginative readers of all ages." School Library Journal, Starred
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395827840
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/28/1996
  • Edition description: Portfolio Edition
  • Pages: 16
  • Sales rank: 78,426
  • Age range: 6 - 11 Years
  • Product dimensions: 12.10 (w) x 16.10 (h) x 0.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Chris Van Allsburg is the winner of two Caldecott Medals, for Jumanji and The Polar Express, as well as the recipient of a Caldecott Honor Book for The Garden of Abdul Gasazi. The author and illustrator of numerous picture books for children, he has also been awarded the Regina Medal for lifetime achievement in children’s literature. In 1982, Jumanji was nominated for a National Book Award and in 1996, it was made into a popular feature film. Chris Van Allsburg was formerly an instructor at the Rhode Island School of Design. He lives in Rhode Island with his wife and two children.

Biography

Multiple Caldecott Medal winner Chris Van Allsburg grew up in the 1950s in and around Grand Rapids, Michigan. He majored in sculpture at the University of Michigan's College of Architecture & Design and graduated in 1972. He received his M.F.A. in 1975 from Rhode Island School of Design.

After graduate school, Van Allsburgh set up a sculpture studio in Providence, married and settled in the area, and began exhibiting his work in New York City and throughout New England. Around the same time, he became interested in drawing. His wife, Lisa, encouraged him to pursue children's book illustration, putting him in contact with her friend David Macauley, a successful artist and author. Macauley's editor at Houghton Mifflin was impressed by Van Allsburgh's work and advised him to try his hand at illustrating a story of his own. His maiden effort, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, was published in 1979 and received a Caldecott Honor Medal.

Since that auspicious beginning, Van Allsburgh has gone on to produce a string of wonderfully inventive, critically acclaimed, and award-winning books. He gathers inspiration from unlikely quarters -- the progress of ants across a kitchen counter, crayon streaks in a child's coloring book, a children's board game come to life -- and executes his ideas on a provocative but surefire "What if..." principle.

Among his many awards are two Caldecott Medals -- one for Jumanji, written in 1982 and the other for 1985's The Polar Express; a National Book Award (also for Jumanji); and the Regina Medal for lifetime achievement in children's literature.

Good To Know

Van Allsburg's grandfather owned and operated the East End Creamery and delivered milk and milk products to homes around the Grand Rapids area in yellow and blue trucks.

One of Van Allsburg's childhood homes was a big, Tudor-styled house on a wide, tree-lined street. He used the street as a model for the cover art of what is arguably his most famous book, The Polar Express.

Because so many students at Van Allsburg's high school excelled academically, representatives from the University of Michigan would visit each year to interview interested seniors and admit them on the spot if they met qualifications. During his senior year, Van Allsburg was told about the art program affiliated with the University's College of Architecture & Design and thought it sounded like fun. Although he had never had any formal art classes, he fibbed to the admissions officer, saying he had taken private lessons outside of school.

Two of Van Allsburg's bestselling books, Jumanji and The Polar Express, were subsequently turned into blockbuster movies.

Van Allsburg is not your typical "feel good" children's author. He has been known to handle darker themes, and his stories often involve bizarre worlds and dreamscapes.

In all his stories, Van Allsburg inserts a little white bull terrier modeled after a real-life dog owned by his brother-in-law. (Another popular children's author, David Shannon, does the same thing, but Shannon's pup is a Westie!)

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    1. Hometown:
      Providence, Rhode Island
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 18, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Grand Rapids, Michigan
    1. Education:
      University of Michigan College of Architecture & Design, 1972; Rhode Island School of Design, MFA, 1975
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 27 )
Rating Distribution

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(24)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 27 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 1999

    The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

    I think that this is a wonderful book, so my Language Arts teacher is having us do a report on it and I think that it is a good idea for a report.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 3, 2010

    Imagination is key for this book

    Every child will love a book that allows them to imagine new or unusual things. This is just what The Mysteries of Harris Burdick does for its readers. One cannot help but make up stories about the beautiful black and white pictures done in pencil are displayed throughout the book. Two pictures that stand out are the one of the woman about to cut into the glowing pumpkin and the one with the nun in a chapel on a floating chair. Who wouldn't come up with wild stories about either of these pictures? The captions lead the reader on a journey into to depths of imagination just because of the strange circumstances surrounding each illustration. This is definitely a book to share with any inquisitive child. If nothing else is charming enough for a reader, it should be the mystery surrounding Harris Burdick himself. Imagine an author that doesn't want recognition of any sort, who just somehow disappears even after gaining the attention of a publisher. Something must have happened for him to not have gotten back in touch with the publisher, but what?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2010

    Harris Burdick - USE YOUR IMAGINATION!

    The Mysteries of Harris Burdick has been available for over 20 years and I consider it a classic for anyone (adult or child) to use as a springboard to their own imaginary world. There is very little 'writing', but what Van Allsburg provides is just enough to get one's creative 'juices' flowing. The illustrations, coupled with the short text start the reader on a journey that they themselves create. The possibilities are endless.

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  • Posted December 27, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Great for writing lessons in the classroom

    I used this for writing lessons in the classroom. The children cannot wait for the next picture to write about. They love sharing their their stories and listening for other students ideas. Students actually enjoy revising after they listen to others' ideas about the pictures.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2007

    A reviewer

    I had to read, mostly look and interprate, this book in 4th grade as an 'other titles' book... it scared me... which is TOTALLY AWESOME!!!!!!!! I love this BOOK!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2007

    Imagination is alive and well...

    This is a wonderous tool for any parent or teacher who wishes to deeply reach the minds of children and inspire their amazing gifts of imagination. The artwork is beautiful and captivating, while the short 'story introductions' are nothing short of brilliantly baiting. I use this book regularly in my classroom as a prompt for creative writing exercises and daily journal entries. It has lent itself exceptionally well for students in my sixth grade language arts class, as well as my honors high school students who are interested in fictional narrative. Plus, this book is one that will be on my own children's bookshelves for hopefully many generations to come.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2005

    An Imaginative Experiance

    My fith grade teacher had us write a story for halloween that goes along with the picture and we also had to use the caption somewhere in our writing. we got sit sit around a bonfire, made of paper, and tell our stories while our teacher had a fog machine going. All of the stories turned out great and it was a wonderful, challenging experiance!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2005

    childhood memories

    This was one of my favorite books as a child as was anything with the authors name on it. What make books these so special to me are the illustrations. In elementary school this book was read to us by the librarian on halloween as was polar express for christmas. I recommmend to this book for it's ability to excite your imagination

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2003

    intriguing imagination ignitor

    i remember reading these books when i was in middle school. our teacher would ask us to write our own stories to go with the illustrations. i had been thinking about these pictures i remembered seeing as a child but could not place them as far as author or book title. after watching the movie Jumanji i remembered that the book had wonderful illustrations and logging onto this site brought a fantastic rush of memories and joy to me. i really enjoyed these books as a child and they have sustained a deep impact on me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2003

    The 14 views of Harris Burdick's Life

    When I was shown three of the pictures at school from this book, I found them intrigued, especially when we had to make up a play based upon when of the pictures. The book is full of mystery certainly, but that is what we see Harris Burdick's life as, nothing more, nothing less. The drawings are magnificent, and it is a shame that the real stories have not been found, but having the mystery of what they about, and being able to imagine stories for them, certainly over compensate for the missing stories. My favourite is the 'Uninvited Guests'. I don't think it has anything to do with tiny little people, but somethjing much darker and deeper like all his pictures.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2003

    The mysteries that were never written.

    This book is well-illustrated. The pictures make you want to write your own book. This book has an interesting story with it. What happened to Harris Burdick? We like it because you get to make up your own stories.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2002

    A Stuning Story

    This story is great! A good story for kids to write there own story using Allsburg's stuning pictures! This wonderful book will light the amaginations of all kids. Everybody will enjoy this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2002

    Brilliant! Fantastic!

    As i read this magnificiant book i couldnt put it down for any reason. I read it in approximitaly, 5 1/2 hours. it was Marvolous.I have already gotten 1 for my nephew, i know he will love it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2001

    Excellent teaching tool

    Allsburg's _Harris Burdick_ is an excellent way to prompt creative writing. Students can choose to write the stories behind the pictures presented in the book or portfolio. It's a great exercise in predicting and foreshadowing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2000

    The X-Files Meets Harris Burdick

    This book definitely probes the unknown and encourages a mind to think of the mysterious and intriguing aspects of Burdick's visual creations. It challenges rationality and forces a stimulation of the mind not entirely explainable. The images suggest something Chris Carter would develop into the plot of an X-File in his mind-boggling way.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2000

    The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

    Personally, I loved this book. I believe it to be an exceptional idea to publish a book that has so much mystery surrounding it. I smiled at some pictures, while I shuddered at others. This book has a fascinating background and you can't help but wonder what the 'rest of the story' is.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 1999

    Mother Goose This ain't

    Van Allsburg is not just a children's author. I'm twenty and still in love with his ability to force the reader to create her own thread through his work. 'The Mysteries...' is great because it allows small children and parents to create a story together, and older children (up to 90...) to use their imaginations and make a story of their own. Never before has a writer so clearly broken through the page to create a dialog with the reader.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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