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The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

4.8 28
by Chris Van Allsburg, Harris Burdick

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Fourteen black-and-white drawings, each accompanied by a title and a caption, entice readers to make up his or her own story.


Fourteen black-and-white drawings, each accompanied by a title and a caption, entice readers to make up his or her own story.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

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

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.00(w) x 10.75(h) x 0.42(d)
AD760L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 7 Years

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 is a former instructor at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Brief Biography

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

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The Mysteries of Harris Burdick 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I use these large-format images in my 4th grade reading class. Students write their own stories to go with the images, title and caption. Inspires wonderful creativity! I then share stories from "The Chronicles of Harris Burdick" with students. Highly recommended!
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Deb-chan More than 1 year ago
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?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
DebbieIA More than 1 year ago
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.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
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!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.